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The History of Oratory from the Age of 
Pericles to the Present Time 

The Occasional Address: Its Composition 
AND Literature. A Study in Demon- 
strative Oratory 

Principles and Methods of Literary 

American Literature in the Colonial and 
National Periods 

Seven Natural Laws of Literary Compo- 

Makers of American Literature 

Wendell Phillips, Orator and Agitator 

Wendell Phillips 

Orator and Agitator 




New York 

Doubleday, Page & Company 









*' Public sentiment is everything. With ptihlic sentiment 
nothing can fail ; without it nothing can succeed. Conse- 
quently, he loho moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he 
who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes 
statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.'' 

— ^Abraham Lincoln. 

"Agitation is the marshalling of a nation^ s conscience 

to mould its laws'' 

Sir Robert Peel. 

"y4n Agitator's purpose is to throiv the gravest questions 
upon the conscience and intellect of the masses, because they 
are the ultimate governors in a republic." 

— ^Wendell Phillips. 


Wendell Phillips was so closely identified with the 
most important episode of American history in the last 
century that his life must be considered largely in 
connection with it and its consequences. Known as 
the anti-slavery agitation, it assumed as one of its early 
phases the demand for immediate and unconditional 
abolition. To this cause Phillips gave his best years 
as the preacher of a crusade against an institution, at 
first national and later sectional, which finally came to 
be regarded as bad anywhere. Agitation of a disputed 
question was the method, untrammeled speech before 
the people the means, and superlative eloquence the manner 
of his warfare. In his later years he became the champion 
of other causes. 

To do him and his work justice, both should be contem- 
plated from the present as the day of an accomplished purpose 
which was not generally approved in his own time nor 
correctly estimated. Yet, to be just to his contemporaries, 
it should be borne in mind that the progress of reforms 
is slow and the appreciation of them a gradual growth. The 
difference between him and most men of his generation was 
in his early apprehension of justice, humanity, and national 
consistency in a country calling itself free. The interest 
of his biography gathers around this difference, as well as 
around the later acceptance and endorsement of his main 



purpose by a large part of the nation. In both periods he 
should be accorded a fair presentation of convictions whose 
sincerity was equalled by their courageous and uncom- 
promising utterance in the face of sufficient antagonism to 
make his persistence heroic. 

Aside from his interest to one and another as a reformer, 
his oratory is of exceptional value to all who are interested 
in the art of public speaking. Two volumes have been 
published, one with his own endorsement, giving all that type 
can preserve of some fifty examples of his speeches, lectures, 
and addresses. Besides these there are hundreds more 
printed in two weekly journals throughout a period of forty 
years, which have been read in order to trace the course of 
his thought on national, sectional, and other questions of 
importance. The drift of his comment is given in such 
abridgments and extracts as the limits and design of this 
book permit, together with examples of his oratory on widely 
differing occasions. To those who desire further acquain- 
tance with entire addresses the volumes mentioned and files 
of the Liberator and Anti-Slavery Standard afford ample 

Besides the privilege of listening to him on several occasions 
and reading information and comment in contemporary sheets 
by friend and foe, the author has found particulars of home 
life in the early biographies of Austin and Martyn, to which 
have been added reminiscences and letters by some who knew 
him well. Grateful acknowledgments are especially due to 
Colonel T. W. Higginson, Messrs. Frank B, Sanborn, Francis 
J. Garrison, William I. Bowditch, John P. Reynolds, Jr., 
Edward J. Carpenter, Mrs. Julia G. Blagden, and to others 
who have done what they could to add to memorials which 


are remarkably few of a man who was oftener before the 
people and for a longer period than any other public speaker 
of his generation. ^' ' 

Providence, R. I., 
Memorial Day, 1909. 



Preface . ....... vii 

Chapter I. Childhood and Schoolyears . . 3 

Ancestry — Home influences — Boston Latin School — Oratorical 
promise — Companions — Harvard instructors — Studies and read- 
ing — Athletic sports — Social leanings — Moral and religious 
character — A law student — Collateral reading — Admitted to 
the bar — Early practice. 

Chapter II. The Cause 19 

An unpopular movement — Introduction of slavery — Early opposi- 
tion — Emancipation and colonization projects — Garrison and the 
Liberator — Immediate abolition urged — New England Anti- 
slavery Society — Garrison mobbed — Views of slavery — Condi- 
tions of slave life and labour — Cost and profits of slaveholding — 
Wrongs and barbarities — Recoiling evils — Estimates of the coloured 
race — The cause of freedom from bondage and its justification. 

Chapter III. An Advocate of Rights ... 31 

Phillips witnesses mob — Previous convictions — Influence of one 
woman — Meets Garrison — Idealism — Declaration of alliance — 
First anti-slavery speech — Tribute to John Quincy Adams — 
Defends right of petition — Inconspicuous at first — Renunciation. 

Chapter IV. Freedom of the Press . . .49 

Strictures on printing — "Incendiary presses" — The Observer of 
St. Louis and Alton — Riot and murder — Faneuil Hall meeting — 
Phillips's speech a revelation — Recognition of his power and promise 
— Eft'ect of the speech — Dramatic element. 

Chapter V. Labours Afield ..... 63 

Increase of anti-slavery societies — Another defence of Lovejoy — 
On annexation of Texas — Forms Boston Anti-slavery Society — 
On slavery in District of Columbia — A\\ organizer — Embarrass- 
ments — Associates. 




Chapter VI. In Europe 76 

Tribute to Mr. and Mrs. Phillips on their departure — Winter in 
Rome — Convention in London — A disturbing question — Phillips's 
position — Speech on British cotton raising in India — On the 
Continent and a winter in Italy — Return and reception — Home 
life at 26 Essex Street. 

Chapter VIL On the Platform .... 89 

Readiness of speech — The Lyceum lecture — Noted lecturers — 
Phillips's early topics — The Lost Arts and Street Life in Europe — 
Preliminary to anti-slavery subjects — Advantages of lecture system 

— On Irish appeal to Americans — O'Connell's tribute to Phillips — 
A fugitive slave in Boston — Speech in Faneuil Hall uproar — Com- 
promise in the Constitution — An oratorical victory — Talk of dis- 
union — The nature of it North and South — The Constitution, Union, 
and slavery — The ministry and abolition — Comment on Phillips's 

Chapter VIII. Recognition and Leadership . 112 

An address to President Tyler — General agent of the Massachusetts 
Anti-slavery Society — Addresses, arguments and pamphlets — A 
Massachusetts envoy in South Carolina — Second Irish address — 
Admiration of O'Connell. 

Chapter IX. Protests Against Politics . .117 

Disturbing questions — Primitive abolition methods — Address to 
the people — Politicians and reformers — Steadfastness to orig.inal 
principles — Peaceable methods — Appeal to conscience. 

Chapter X. Northern Alarm . . . .122 

A muck-rake speech on Annexation of Texas — A new party in the 
North — Boston officials capture a fugitive — Abolition protest — 
On war with Mexico — Remarks on Scotch Address — On right of 
petition for disunion — Calhoun and Garrison as disunionists — 
Phillips's position — Cites British statesmen — Emerson's views 

— Father Mathew's silence — Phillips's progress in fifteen years — 
Growth of anti-slavery sentiment. 

Chapter XI. Pacification and Agitation . .135 

An era of good feeling — Webster's Seventh of March speech — 
Phillips's review of it — Faneuil Hall meeting and further criticism 
by Phillips — The Rynders mob in New York — Speech in Plymouth 
Church — In Boston convention on the press — On Fugitive Slave 
Bill — Shadrach a fugitive, and Sims — Phillips addresses mass 
meeting on the Common — Criticism of Kossuth's silence about 



Chapter XII. Darkness and Daybreak . . 148 

Quiet by compromise attacked by Phillips — Stemming the tide 
against abolition — Defeat imminent — Resistance and non-resist- 
ance — Obituary of Webster — Defence of denunciation — Litera- 
ture of abolition — A hopeful sign — Strife in Congress — Lowell and 
Whittier — Other men of letters. 

Chapter XIII. Protest Against the Fugitive 

Slave Act 161 

Northern awakening — Effect upon Phillips — Legal arguments — 
On capital punishment — Rhetorical examples — Mutual criticism 
by abolitionists — Individualism — No party politics — Schools 
opened to coloured children — Non-conformity. 

Chapter XIV. The Main Issue . . . .172 

Depression and doubt — Brooks assault upon Sumner — Fore- 
gleams of dawn — Politics in the anti-slavery field — Political 
limitations — Remote position. 

Chapter XV. Disintegration .... 179 

Disunion threats — Value of Union — Diverse views — Dred Scott 
decision — Reviewed by Phillips — Party leaders criticized — Ora- 
tion at Yale. 

Chapter XVI. Recall to First Principles . .190 

Grounds for encouragement — Forecasts — Endurance as a speaker 

— Interpretation of States rights — Insurrection useless — Eulogy 

— Reproof of public drinking — On woman's position — John 
Brown and Harper's Ferry — Address on the Lesson of the Hour — 
Press comment — Eulogy of Brown. 

Chapter XVII. War Imminent .... 208 

Spread of anti-slavery sentiment — Ballots rather than bullets — 
Republican party and abolition — Criticism of absorption — On the 
election of Lincoln — Outlook brighter — Eulogy of Theodore 
Parker — A mob — Secession to end slavery — A Northern con- 
federacy proposed — Lincoln's overtures to the South — Phillips's 

Chapter XVIII. The Culmination of Contro- 
versy 223 

Fort Sumter — Phillips speaks on the situation — Consistency — 

— A public censor — Criticizes the Administration — The abolition 
issue in war — Contrabands — On the war — Ripened opinion from 
radical sowing — Phillips at the capital — Larger views — Military 
emancipation — A proclamation of partial freedom — A look forward. 



Chapter XIX. Reflections on Government 

Policy 241 

The proclamation by the people — Northern allies of the South — 
Negro soldiers — Toussaint I'Ouverture — A temperance lecture — 
The state of the country — Hopeful vigilance — The press on aboli- 
tionism — Strictures on the Government — English attitude — Sud- 
den gains to the cause — Looking toward reconstruction — Dis- 
solution of Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society — An historic fort- 
night — Tribute to Lincoln — Work of abolitionists not ended — 
Total abolition decreed. 

Chapter XX. Continuing the Contest . .261 

Phillips as an editor — Address to Boston schools — Freedmen's 
rights disregarded — Phillips endorsed by Congressmen — Refusal 
of nomination to Congress — A lecture trip — Attacks Andrew John- 
son — Doubt of Grant — Vital questions — Creating public opinion. 

Chapter XXI> Reconstruction and Other Issues 273 

On release of Jefferson Davis — Criticism of Grant and Congress — 
Motives in criticizing men and parties — Abolition success by defeats 

— Religion and social science — Rights of coloured citizens — Negro 
suffrage — Labour question discussed — Backward movement — 
On Fifteenth Amendment — American Anti-slavery Society disbanded. 

Chapter XXII. New Causes and Old . . . 290 

Thirty- three years of service continued. — Intemperance taken up — 
Christianity and Social Science — Nomination for Governor — Pro- 
hibition and Cooperation — Support of General Butler — A coloured 
Senator — Favours Republican party — Froude and Phillips on 
Ireland — Questions of finance — Tribute to O'Connell — Rescue 
of Old South Church — Heroic spirit. 

Chapter XXIII. Last Years and Labours . . 307 

Nomination to Congress again proposed — Eulogy of Garrison — 
Religious belief — On liquor trade and Irish question — Oration at 
Harvard — Courage to the last — Lecturing on labour and capital 

— Address in Old South Church — Illness and death — Honoured 
by thousands. 

Chapter XXIV. The Substance of Phillips's 

Oratory 318 

Value of brief citations — As a lecturer — An exordium — Argumen- 
tative discourse — Address expository — Judicial argument — Abolition 
speeches — Denunciation — Defensive and aggressive speech — 
Eulogy — Academic orations — Dramatic features of his eloquence. 



Chapter XXV. The Form of His Oratory . . 345 

The lecturer and his audiences — Voice — Dehvery — Moods of 
hearers — Diction — Modes of address — Invective — Versatihty — 
Perorations — Natural gifts and education — Qualities suggested 
by classic orators — As an epigrammatist — Friendliness and 

Chapter XXVI. Remainders .... 364 

Items of minor interest — Home life — Library — Reading — On 
lecture trips — Advice to speakers — Table-talk — Readiness — 
Value to students of oratory. 





ON MANY accounts it was pleasant and profitable to be 
a Boston boy in the early years of the nineteenth 
century. Some will say that it is better to be one at the 
beginning of the twentieth; but happiness does not neces- 
sarily increase with the progress of decades. Advantages of 
several kinds are not augmented by steam heat, electric 
lio-hts, and gasolene locomotion. Nature and art, thought 
and affection have not essentially changed in a hundred years, 
and the sources of material prosperity and of intellectual 
eminence lie now, as they did then, in natural gifts and 
abilities employed in wise ways. Many things, too, that 
contribute to a wholesome satisfaction with life were common 
a century ago in the Bay City. There were accumulations 
of wealth with an unostentatious luxury, and a commercial 
life accompanied by intellectual habits, with Long Wharf 
on one side and Harvard College on the other. Old South 
Church and Faneuil Hall standing between as the symbols of 
religion and liberty. 

By 1810, 33,000 inhabitants were living on the peninsula 
over which William Blackstone had solitary domain when, 
in 1630, he invited John Winthrop and associates to come 
from Charlestown and taste his spring water, then selling 



out to them and removing toward the Narragansett country. 
But the purchasers throve in their generations, and after one 
hundred and eighty years' trade in fish and timber, rum and 
furs, with an occasional cargo of Negroes — under general 
protest — comfortable fortunes were amassed in many fami- 
lies. Of these the Phillips family was one of the most 

The Reverend George Phillips, a graduate of Cambridge 
University and rector of Boxted, Essex, falling into disagree- 
ment with some of his parishioners about conformity to the 
ritual of the national Church, joined Winthrop's company 
and landed in Salem in June, 1630. For fourteen years he 
was pastor of the church at Watertown when that village was 
as large as Boston then was. His son was the minister at Row- 
ley. Then a goldsmith is found in the succession, although a 
younger brother entered the ministry. Next, tAvo merchants 
follow, and then a lawyer appears who, by 1809, had risen 
through minor offices to the dignity of judgeship in the Court 
of Common Pleas. Two years later his fifth son, Wendell, 
was b)orn, November 29, 1811, who was to uphold the family 
name through a good part of the century, but not after the 
manner of his forefathers. They had filled prominent posi- 
tions in the standing order of the Puritan Church and State, 
in commercial affairs, and in social life. He was to distin- 
guish himself and the family name outside these spheres of 

Into this inheritance of a good name, ample wealth, and 
social standing came the child Wendell, who early began to 
give promise of the man. Those who trace personal qualities 
and abilities back through a long line of distinguished ances- 
tors can find enough to account for a great deal that is to 


appear if they look over the records, clerical, legal, military, 
and civil of the "Phillips (xcnealogies." There were 
ministers and deacons, judges and captains, legislators and 
governors; but they were also the progenitors of the five 
brothers and three sisters of this eighth child in a family of 
nine, whose distinction is that Wendell was one of them. 
And if he was the highly favoured legatee, may it not be 
truly said that he repaid his inheritances in full and even, 
according to Shinto doctrine, ennobled his honourable 
ancestry by retroactive and augmented distinction ? In any 
case, this was sufficient to warrant the above brief summary 
of ancestral achievement. It is more to the present purpose 
to note influences that were direct and immediate/ 

A century ago the family was the first school and parents 
the earliest teachers. From his father this boy heard wise 
counsels of self-dependence, and from a Bible-reading mother 
lessons of steadfastness to righteousness which became prin- 
ciples of conduct in after life. Instead of the amusement by 
which instruction is now made palatable in kindergartens, 
sundry boys of that time in the neighbourhood of the Phillijjs 
mansion, at the lower corner of Beacon and Walnut Streets, 
gathered in the garret of Lothrop Motley's home, and, 
arraying themselves in the cast-off costumes of other days — 
"cloaks, doublets, and plumed hats, as heroes and bandits, 
enacted more or less impromptu melodramas." To this 

^The name, Wendell, was the family name of his grandmother, Margaret, daughter of 
Hon. Jacob Wendell, merchant, and member of the Governor's Council. She became 
the wife of William Phillips in 1761. Their only son, John, father of Wendell, graduated 
from Andover and Harvard, became the first public "prosecutor" of the Municipal Court 
on its establishment in 1800, representative to the General Court in 1803, and Senator for 
the rest of his life. On the incorporation of the City of Boston in 1822 he was chosen its 
first Mayor. He died before the close of his term of office in 1823. The children of John 
and Salley (Walley) Phillips were: i. Thomas Walley, b. Jan. 16, lygV, d. iSsg. 2. Sarah 
Hurd, b. April 24, 1709; d. 1837. 3. Samuel, b. 1801; d. 1817, a member of the Class of 
1820, Harvard. 4. Margaret, b. Nov. 20, 1802.5. Miriam. 6. John Charles, b. Nov. 15, 
1807; d. 1878. 7. George William, b. Jan'. 3, 1810; d. 1880. 8. Wendell, b. Nov. 29, 181 1; 
d. Feb. 2, 1884. 9. Grenville Tudor, b. Aug. 14, 1816; d. 1863. 


entertainment the lad Phillips added private exercise at home 
in the direction of his personal bent, arranging chairs for 
auditors and discoursing to them at a length worthy of his 
clerical forebears in the Puritan age. When asked if he did 
not tire of it, he answered, "No; but it is pretty hard on the 
chairs," an indication that ancestral rigours had softened 
since Samuel Sewall tried to equal his contemporaries in his 
single sermon of two and a half hours. Thus the future 
orator began to educate himself, without a priggish anticipa- 
tion of his destiny, but simply because it was a natural gift 
whose exercise was play. Nor, in subsequent years, did time 
dispel this morning dew of oratorical promise. Even in 
boyhood, his friend Thomas Appleton said, "Wendell's 
voice was a very pleasant one to listen to, and his gestures 
as graceful as could be. He was a fine, manly little fellow, 
and I was very proud of him as a playmate." 

The Boston Latin School, which he entered in his eleventh 
year, was his first public educator. His father had pre- 
pared for college at Andover, where he had been sent to 
live with an uncle whose predecessors had founded Phillips 
Academy there and another at Exeter, N. H. This, how- 
ever, was not a sufficient reason to send the son from home 
and away from the school which had been one of the 
features of the city since Ezekiel Cheever from London 
established it in 1G70, having already taught in New Haven, 
Ipswich, and Charlestown, thirty-two years in all. Cheever 
was a veteran of fifty-six when all the dignitaries of the town 
united in calling him to take charge of a hundred and fifty 
boys, a task in which he won distinction for thirty-eight 
years, passing off the academic platform at the age of 
ninety -four, being buried from his schoolhouse where he 


li had trained the most eminent citizens of an entire generation; 
i "a skilful, painful, and faithful schoolmaster," as Cotton 
I Mather said of him in his funeral discourse. After his 
I demise no successor made his place good until Mr. B. A. 
i Gould came in 1816. When young Phillips entered the 
school Gould had been master six years. Although an Eng- 
lish department had been started in 1821, instruction was 
chiefly in Latin and Greek, which since the revival 
of learning had formed the basis of a liberal education, 
and so far as this young pupil was concerned, was 
admirably adapted to give him that command of language 
for which he became noted. 

His oratorical bent became at once apparent. In a land 
governed by town meetings and legislatures and educated 
by pulpit, forum, and platform, the school would be a 
failure that did not teach boys to declaim. Doubtless it 
is unnatural to assume the position of great orators even for 
a few moments, and the sense of incongruity is often the 
cause of much embarrassment, but much is learned by 
imitation. At any rate, declamation days do not appear 
to have been dreaded by the boy Wendell, and it is on 
record that they were anticipated with pleasure by his com- 
panions when he was to speak. A fellow student said: 
*'What first led me to observe him and fixed him in my 
memory was his elocution; and I soon came to look forward 
to declamation day with interest, mainly on his account; 
though many were admirable speakers." Of his appear- 
ance it is remarked that he was a finely formed boy, vigorous 
and tall for his age, and, in connection with his friend 
Motley, "both ranked high among their fellows on account 
of their beauty, elegant manners, and social position." 


Many who have been schoolboys will recall the 
leading declaimer of their platform and the admiration 
with which they heard him recite Patrick Henry's *'Call 
to Arms," or Webster's "Appeal for the Union," or as 
a triumphant achievement, Cicero's "Arraignment of 
Catiline" in the original Latin. Years afterward they 
have asked what became of the juvenile orator and 
the great promise of his boyish eloquence. Rarely he 
attained distinction; oftener mediocrity or nothing. Not 
necessarily, as the career of Phillips showed. The root 
of the matter was in him, and his marvellous endow- 
ment increased with the years in symmetry, beauty, and 
irresistible power. 

It was next to inevitable, after five years at the Latin 
School, and from his antecedents, that the youth, now 
nearly sixteen, should enter Harvard College. In 1827 
the Rev. Dr. John T. Kirkland was President, to be suc- 
ceeded in two years by the Hon. Josiah Quincy, with whose 
son, Edmund, though older than himself, Phillips formed 
a friendship which was to last through a lifetime. Lothrop 
Motley had returned from the historian Bancroft's Round 
Hill School, at Northampton, to enter as the youngest member 
of the class, which he would have led had he shown the 
diligence in study that afterward made him the historian of 
the Dutch Republic. Charles Sumner was in the next 
class above, a hermit student taking himself seriously, 
and later to be associated with Phillips in a friendly way. 
Oliver Wendell Holmes, in the next class, was to be its poet 
for thirty years. Of the faculty, Edward T. Channing 
was professor of rhetoric and oratory, important studies 
to the future orator, and of still greater value under the 


direction of an instructor whose fitness for his work through 
thirty-two years was exceptional and memorable, main- 
taining, as he did, high standards of purity and elegance in 
composition and delivery, and also directing the reading 
and influencing the literary taste of an entire generation 
of students. George Ticknor was professor of modern 
languages and belles-lettres, dispensing the treasures which 
he had gathered in a five years' residence abroad and by 
acquaintance with leading authors of Europe. Other 
distinguished scholars occupied chairs in their several 
departments; and the personal factor was greater in their 
relations to pupils than is now possible with larger classes. 
The class of 1831 numbered only sixty-five at graduation, 
and there had been but one larger class. 

It was with such advantages as these, belonging to an 
earlier time, that a pupil younger than the present average 
entered college. Although multiplied courses were not 
then offered to students to their distraction or delight, a 
good basis was furnished for an education which was to be 
continued beyond its collegiate beginnings. Four walls 
were begun, most often for a plain structure at least, but 
there were not, as now, a dozen outlying blocks placed 
on which temple columns can never be reared in a single 
lifetime. Nor was much time wasted on fragments of 
ornamentation and decoration to the damage of the essen- 
tial substructure. Neither did some Simeon Stylites build 
a solitary pillar on whose top he should expound a specialty 
for the rest of his days. Minds, nevertheless, were as 
strong and active then as now, and if they ran in fewer 
channels at once these were likely to be deeper in conse- 
quence, with fewer shallows of mental dissipation. The 


sciences of mind and of ethics, of nature and of human 
nature, and as the vehicle of conveying thought about these 
and related themes the continual study of language, con- 
stituted the basic education of that day, conducted on a 
few broad and definite lines. Yet there was a margin for 
personal aptitudes and preferences. Phillips used to say 
that his own were for history and mechanics, the latter 
possibly as a useful diversion. 

In history he gave during one year all the time he could 
spare to the study of the English Revolution of 1640, reading 
memoirs, speeches, novels, and plays that could illustrate 
Clarendon and other writers. Another year was devoted to 
biographies and memoirs of George III.'s reign and the 
years of our war for independence. Dutch history also had 
great interest for him as the story of a republic. Among his 
heroes were Cromwell, Vane, Pym, and Raleigh in England; 
in America, Jay, Franklin, Samuel Adams, and Eli Whitney. 
If he could have foreseen his own need of illustrative material 
in the future he could not have chosen better examples. In 
literature his favourites were Tacitus and Juvenal, Roche- 
foucauld, Pascal, Tocqueville, Guizot, and Victor Hugo; 
in English, Ben Jonson, Jeremy Taylor, Massinger, Milton, 
Southey, Lamb, Disraeli the elder, and Horace Walpole. 
Richardson and Scott were his favourite earlier English 
novelists. It was characteristic of the later advocate of the 
mentally unappreciated sex that he should consider Elizabeth 
Barrett Browning the first of modern poets, and Charlotte 
Bronte and George Eliot profounder writers than Dickens 
and Thackeray. But this was long after his college days. 
Taking these together, he read widely outside the academic 
curriculum. Nor did he neglect its routine, ranking high 


in his class, an all-round student with predilections for history 
and natural science/ 

With regard to anticipation of his later distinction as an 
orator the gist of testimony is that it manifested itself in 
debate rather than orations, as would naturally happen where 
these were less frequent than discussion. Still, a classmate 
wrote that '* there was always the same remarkable power of 
eloquence, whether in extempore debate or studied declama- 
tion. It was a great treat to hear him declaim as a college 
exercise. He was always studying remarkable passages as 
an exercise in composition and to secure the most expressive 
forms of language."- In addition, he took pains to learn })y 
example from such speakers as Harrison Gray Otis and 
Edward Everett, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, the last 
of whom he must have heard somewhere in the North, else 
he could not have compared the voices of the two great orators 
as he did, saying that Clay's w^as musical and Webster's full 
of strength, his statement argument, and his eloquence sub- 
lime — on a great occasion. At other times he thought him 
ponderous or even dull. It took a crisis to rouse him — 
then he was sublime.^ 

In view of the large and wise use Phillips made of academic 
opportunities, matters of minor employment sink into their 
proper insignificance. Athletics had not taken their present 
conspicuous place among student activities; at least they were 

^Based upon the testimony of his roommate, Rev. John Tappen Pierce, of Illinois. 
Mr. Roscoe Conkling Bruce in the Harvard Illustrated Magazine, April, looi, quotes one 
of Phillips's college friends as saying that he "sauntered and gently studied; learned easily 
and rapidly; was deeply interested in history and chemistry; had a passion for mathe- 
matics and attained a standing moderately high; was interested in debating more than 
oratory and was the easy master of the college platform." 

2Rev. Dr. Morrison, sometime editor of the Unitarian Review. 

3F. B. Sanborn's "Recollections of Wendell Phillips" (MS.) in Martyn's "Life," p. 48. 
Phillips's admiration for Webster's gifts should be borne in mind later when that statesman's 
political course is condemned by him. 


not counted among the motives for entering college. Yet: 
there were boats on the Charles, saddles, boxing gloves, and 
fencing foils — ancient and honourable devices for manly 
sport; having their values in a rough-and-tumble world in 
which sudden difficulties sometimes start up to embarrass 
the unready. In these particulars it is possible that the 
student of seventy-five years ago may have had an advantage 
over the abnormally developed specialist of the present time. 
In any case, it is told of Phillips that as he was known in 
school as a manly fellow of fine physique, a contrast to some 
of the prim boys who feared to risk traditional dignity in play, 
so in college "he was a lover of outdoor sports and helped 
others to enjoy them, continuing his boating, boxing, fencing, 
and horse riding, becoming an expert in these manly accom- 
plishments." For the last three he had special fondness.^ 
Socially he belonged to the patrician class, and according 
to common assent felt his responsibility to maintain the 
respectability of his birth and breeding. But he had no 
scorn for democracy if it was not tainted with vulgarity, envy, 
and bad manners. In the inevitable divisions of college 
society a small feud was at one time developed, through which 
he failed of an election to the captaincy of the Harvard 
Washington Corps, a student from the South being the 
successful compromise candidate. Nevertheless, though 
frequent leadership of the aristocracy was forced upon him, 
he was admired and loved by those who knew him best as an 
open-hearted, generous, and chivalrous fellow. His own 

iMartyn, on the "united testimony of his classmates," adds, " Life," p. 35: "He was a 
champion boxer and marksman, fencer, oarsman, and horseman in a day when Boston 
discouraged athletics; his passion was for horses, and later he was a personal friend of Rarey, 
the horse tamer." By his own account he sometimes practised shooting at a mark in mature 
years when on vacations. His diversions belong to a modern age of chivalry, and his spirit 
in them was agreeable to it. 


appreciation of these qualities in Southern students, and the 
admiration he received from them in turn as their ardent 
champion, were recalled in later years when he became a 
strong opponent of their political principles. 

To these qualities of mind, body, and disposition it is 
natural to ask what moral and religious elements were added 
to complete his early character. Theodore Weld, in his 
"Eulogy of Wendell Phillips," states that he "had been the 
subject of a religious revival before entering college," and 
Martyn asserts that Phillips not long before his death 
answered a friend's inquiry to the effect that when he was 
fourteen, after hearing a sermon of Dr. Lyman Beecher's, 
he consecrated himself to God and his service. In college. 
Dr. Buckingham, class secretary, wrote: 

The excitement of the revival gradually passed off — 
that is, in a few years. But his conversion for quite a while 
made a deep impression on his companions, awakening 
their reverence (the word is not too strong) for this religious 
boy. I remember well his appearance of deep devoutness in 
the chapel services. I suppose he needed no conversion 
from the moral education his mother had given him; but 
he probably obtained clearer ideas of duty and consecration 
from the instruction he received and the excitement through 
which he passed, and became, for the most part, fixed in some 
ideas of a great, important life. At any rate, his conversion 
exercised no narrowing influences over him, nor did it make 
him uninterested in people's welfare in the present life, nor 
render his theology superior to philanthropy. I have not 
learned that he ever changed his theological opinions. At 
one time, in his middle life, he renounced the church as at 
present constituted or conducted [on account of its position 
on the slavery question], but kept his practical faith and belief 
in prayer as well as in works of beneficence. 


As fragmentary lines of record and tradition are traced 
they point to what may fairly be regarded as an ideal ex- 
ample of academic life, labour, and character. Here 
was a young man whose birth and antecedents entailed 
obligations to noble conduct. If he was naturally sensible 
of his inheritances, he was more heedful of consequent 
responsibilities than vain of his environment. If he did 
not stoop to efface inborn distinction for the sake of cheap 
popularity, he never failed to recognize the essential equality 
of man with man, and was always ready with a good word 
for the minority. Generations of intelligence and right 
living culminated in a noble manhood. His manner was 
full of grace, his mind of light, his soul of purity. Revered 
by his classmates, he was their recognized leader and 
spokesman when a common sentiment was to be voiced. 
His conversation was replete with information and thought, 
seasoned with humour and spiced with wit. His morality 
was unblurred; his religion was based upon the Bible 
which lay on his study table and was reverenced as a 
mother's gift. Of his special capacity for public speech 
he made the most without dwarfing other endowments. 
Therefore, if one were to search the records of collegiate 
life for an example of well-rounded attainment, for a gen- 
tleman, for a scholar who was neither a pedant nor a recluse, 
a princely man among his fellows, of vigorous body, right 
mind, and wholesome soul, it would be hard to find one 
who comes so near a symmetrical assemblage of graces 
and excellences as Wendell Phillips of the Harvard Class 
of 1831. 

The day of graduation divides boyhood from manhood. 
To be sure, some continue their education in professional 


or graduate schools, which do not appear to be greatly 
diverse from academic departments in universities; l)ut 
those who have been in both know the difference, and that 
college years end on Commencement Day, which, by a 
singular inversion of meaning ever since the day was set 
back into the summer from autumn, marks the end instead 
of the beginning of the academic year. Nothing quite like 
the college years again comes into the student's life. They 
remain only as a fading memory, to be revived with less and 
less distinctness as decreasing numbers return to tell how 
the world and time are treating them and to renew old 
companionships for a day. 

So, when the graduate went the destined way of his set, 
to the Harvard Law School, he began the life-work that 
seemed decreed, the study and practice of the law. The 
circumstance that the first part of his preparation was in a 
professional school did not make the learning of legal 
principles to differ radically from subsequent acquisition 
in a friend's office in Lowell, or, later, in his own in Boston. 
He had the eminent jurist, Judge Story, for an instructor, 
in whose method daily recitation was a prominent feature; 
and an excellent one it was, making study less a matter 
of pre-examination stuffing than it is under a system of 
lectures alone. 

In these three years, the law student absorbed the custo- 
mary amount of legal lore from books, and something 
more if not better from the profound learning and strong 
personality of his preceptors. In a school numbering at 
that time only forty pupils personal relations between the 
dozen or so students in each class and their instructors was 
intimate and profitable; and, at the end of three years, 


knowledge of the rudimentary principles of law should have 
been correspondingly complete. As might be expected 
from previous indications, Phillips looked upon statutes 
and codes as an embodiment and interpretation of human 
justice, and found in the larger principles of law more 
satisfying features than in its minute technicalities. It 
is possible that at this stage of study he sometimes had 
doubts about his future devotion to professional routine 
beyond the demands of its inevitable obligations. Indeed, 
to many of the young men of his neighbourhood and time 
and since, the law, like teaching, afforded an opportunity 
to discover if their real calling were waiting in the shadow 
or perhaps approaching from some unknown quarter. 
Motley, after two years study in Germany, took to reading 
law until he could determine what branch of history he 
would follow. Parkman did the same before he settled 
down to writing the story of France in America. Ticknor 
and Longfellow and Lowell combined teaching and writing 
until they devoted themselves to the more congenial labours 
of literature alone. It would be difficult to enumerate 
all those who have found a little law-study the lobby to 
political activity and success. 

At this time, however, Phillips saw nothing beyond the 
opportunities which spare hours in professional schools 
afford for marginal pursuits, social, industrial, or special. 
He did not neglect athletics, although in that day they 
were not, as now, a "business with assets," which graduates 
sometimes find more remunerative to pursue than the law, 
the ministry, or medicine, or especially teaching. Nor 
did he discontinue his miscellaneous reading, but made 
it wider and deeper as time, opportunity, and broader vision 


inclined him to add to treasures already amassed. There 
was, doubtless, a frequent wavering between these attractive 
studies and the pages of Coke and Blackstone, although 
the latter were not neglected. Still, he could not have 
been unmindful of the part which jury trials take in an 
advocate's labours, and the difficult and uncertain elements 
which they precipitate into professional success. He also 
knew that the lay mind, when it supposes itself an impar- 
tial judge of evidence, and sometimes of what the law 
ought to be, is extremely liable to be insensibly warped 
by an historical instance which it takes to be parallel or 
even an anecdote which seems to be illustrative, and is, 
at least, more easily apprehended than legal abstractions 
or doubtful testimony. Accordingly, he had good reasons 
in the midst of professional study to lay in store whatever 
might be useful in forensic argument or appeal. 

Yet he did not find the drudgery of legal study burdensome, 
nor its details uninteresting. Charles Sumner and Judge 
Thomas Hopkinson are quoted as testifying to his loyalty to 
whatever belongs to the profession. As he looked about him, 
he saw it honoured by illustrious names and crowned with 
honour from an historic past and with renown from its greater 
lights. After the three conventional years of instruction and 
study, he was admitted to the Suffolk Bar with as fair a future 
before him as could be presented to a young man with every- 
thing in his favour except the advantage of a place in his 
father's office and succession to his practice — made impos- 
sible in his case by his father's death just before the son 
entered college. A partnership had been offered him by 
his classmate Hopkinson, who had started in Lowell, but he 
preferred to take his chances in Boston, where he opened an 




office and entered upon that period of waiting which affords 
so much time for reading and meditation. This was 
more and more disturbed by appHcations to draw a contract 
or a will or by some case in court. / He measured his success 
by the remark made later, "In' those two opening years 
I paid all my expenses, and few do it now." Friends endorse 
his statements and add their own to the effect that both in his 
office and in court his business was increasing and his practice 
as remunerative as a young lawyer could reasonably expect^ 
The brook is satisfied if it has a fair chance to become a river. 



SO FAR, what had come to the young man of twenty-two 
was as inevitable as consequent from antecedent. He was 
walking in the steps his fathers trod, and there was every 
indication that he would follow the customary lines of social 
and civil, professional and political activity, with fair prospects 
of preferment. A moderate radicalism even was not fatal 
to success in a province which had broken with traditions in 
government and religion, and independents were generally 
sure of a respectable following. 

But in the early 'thirties a movement was under way which 
was so unpopular that its promoters might as well have been 
paroled convicts. To understand its meaning and purpose 
a few well known conditions may be recalled. They are the 
key to Wendell Phillips's career. 

It is not necessary to detail minutely how human bondage, 
the old habit of the nations, was fixed upon the new world by 
the greed of Spaniards, and later by Dutch traders at James- 
town in the year of the Pilgrim landing at Plymouth, until by 
1776 some thirty thousand slaves had been landed in the thir- 
teen colonies, and as many more had been born into servitude. 
The apparent inconsistency with the Declaration of Indepen- 
dence and Equal Rights made at this time was in a fair way of 
removal when the invention of the cotton gin marvellously 



increased the profits of slave labour, smothering the South- 
ern conscience beneath a fleecy cloud, while the North gradu- 
ally dispensed with a profitless service. Yet there were those, 
both in the North and the South, who did not forget the early 
sentiment of the nation's founders against slavery, and who 
did not let wholly die the many anti-slavery societies that had 
sprung up. Organized opposition, however, had run low 
through Southern antagonism to it, and Northern acquies- 
ence grew apace, for commercial and political reasons, until 
at the end of the first third of the last century he who spoke 
openly against the domestic institution was regarded as a 
fanatical disturber of national peace and an enemy of the 
Union and a violator of the Constitution. Upon the passage 
of the Missouri Compromise, 1820, the two sections of the 
country had tacitly consented to a discreet silence after an 
outbreak that was ominous. This silence was well observed 
throughout a hushed decade, save for an unheeded voice here 
and there like Lundy's, a peripatetic printer who published 
his Genius of Universal Emancipation, read chiefly by 

-' Then William Lloyd Garrison, a Massachusetts printer, 
who had been associated with Lundy in Baltimore, returned to 
Boston and on the 1st of January, 1831, began to issue a little 
sheet, nine by fourteen inches, called The Liber ator,deina,ndmg 
immediate emancipation of all slaves. Gradual emancipa- 
tion had been talked of by some, and colonization in Liberia 
had commended itself to Southerners as a good project 
for getting free Negroes out of communication w^ith the 
enslaved. Instead of these and similar schemes, this man 
in a garret, without a dollar or a single subscriber or a dozen 
sympathizers with his undertaking, set up and struck off 


with his own hands sheets that were considered incendiary. 
Like burning flakes borne on the winds they fell in remote 
Western towns and as far south as the Gulf. Where they 
lighted other flames were kindled, a few of philanthropy 
and more of rage. New England for the most part stamped 
upon the inflammatory paper. In South Carolina a reward 
of $1,500 was offered for the conviction of any white person 
circulating it, and the Georgia Legislature promised $5,000 
for the arrest and conviction of the publisher. Hostile enact- 
ments and threatening letters followed thick and fast in the 
South and deprecatory appeals in the North. The mails 
were illegally closed in slave states to the circulation of the 
Liberator, as if it were made of gun cotton. Never was a pub- 
lication cursed with such maledictions or an editor assured of 
such a profusion of hemp if he could be drawn southward. 
x\n attempt to kidnap him was feared, not without some 
reason. To all threats, whether reeking with profanity or 
couched in legal phrases. Garrison replied : " I will not retreat 
a single inch, and I will be heard. Tell a man whose house 
is on fire to give a moderate alarm . . . but^urge me not 
to use moderation in a cause like the present/^_7 

Immediate emancipation was, then, the phase which anti- 
slavery opinion assumed under his leadership. It has been 
said that the immediate element was derived from the 
revival preaching of the time, demanding instantaneous 
surrender of the heart to God. Be this as it may, the doc- 
trine was turned upon ministers and churches inconveniently 
when they tried to show the abolitionist how much better 
gradual emancipation would be, accompanied by deportation 
to Africa. Foreign missions received a new impulse in that 
direction, while at home bishops, college presidents, and 


professors of theology thumbed their Bibles to find sanctions 
for the patriarchal institution. Meantime the lone editor 
reiterated his demand in the weekly missive, and in 
speaking whenever a few dared to listen. 
<;" It was the day of organizing societies and holding 
conventions. Toward the close of the year 1831 fifteen 
men got together in the office of Samuel E. Sewall, 
Esq., a descendant of the Colonial judge and diarizer 
who, 131 years before, wrote the first American anti- 
slavery tract, "The Selling of Joseph." On the 6th of 
January, 1832, the New England Anti-Slavery Society 
was organized by a dozen men, of whom it was said that 
not more than one or two could have put a hundred dollars 
into the treasury without bankrupting themselves. Great 
amusement was afforded by these "nobodies" undertaking 
to abolish a system recognized by the Constitution, rooted 
in the interests of half the nation and in the prejudices and 
fears of the other half; but the little band of so-called 
fanatics quoted a saying about the slighting of the wise 
and noble in a certain reform, and with enthusiasm entered 
upon a task which the least sanguine thought would be 
accomplished in ten years. With added supporters, agita- 
tion spread, until the entire country began to be conscious 
that a struggle was impending. The new society published 
tracts, sent out lecturers, and appealed to the churches — 
generally in vain. The Emancipator and the Evangelist 
were established in New York, a signal for the secular and 
religious press to denounce the movement and malign its 
supporters. In time came the announcement that on the 1st 
of August, 1834, Great Britain had emancipated 800,000 
slaves in the West Indies. This gave some respectability 


to emancipation here, but no great impulse. Instead, 
loyalty to the Union, which was in danger from extremists 
in the North and South, led by Garrison and Calhoun, and 
fear of consequent derangement of business and interrup- 
tion of prosperity made head against the growing heresy. 
Opposition ran so high that in default of available statutes 
against unlicensed printing and unaccustomed speech, 
mob law appeared to be the only recourse. 

It was natural that this should first fall upon the leader 
of the abolition movement. His publications had been 
taken from Southern post offices and burned — a sort of 
lynching by proxy, which was servilely endorsed by public 
meetings in the North, apologizing for the aggressive 
impertinence of a few fanatics who were getting dangerous 
out of all proportion to their number and social importance. 
Faneuil Hall had been refused to them, although opened 
to their opponents, who addressed the respectability of the 
city in August, 1835. On October 21st, a crowd of "gentle- 
men of property and standing," incited by newspaper 
appeals to put down all denouncers of slavery, assailed the 
Liberator office, seized Garrison and dragged him through 
the streets with half his clothes torn off. Rescued at length 
by the police, he was sentenced to jail as a disturber of 
the peace, and after another pursuit by the mob was landed 
in a cell just vacated by a murderer. Released the next 
day, he left the city till the public mind should become 
quieted. When it was, the mob, clothed in broadcloth 
and its right mind once more, began to suspect that it had 
violated the city's traditions of liberty and free speech. ) 

American slavery has thus far been referred to in so 
general terms that it may seem to some readers an 


insufficient cause for the zealous antagonism it encountered 
Historical knowledge of its character during the first half 
of the last century will not need refreshing in many minds; 
but the majority of the present generation necessarily 
thinks of African bondage in the South as a thing of the past 
which had its redeeming features. Now and then, too, 
Southern writers and speakers present the sunny side of 
the system as it was in the years before the war — the white 
side of luxury and ease, with so much of irresponsibility 
and comfort as fell to the blacks — citing examples of affec- 
tionate relationship between master and servant. The 
Old Mammy especially lingers as a delightful memory of 
childhood to be handed on in tradition and literature. It 
was but yesterday that a prominent Southerner raised a 
storm of prolonged applause when he remarked, in effect, 
that he had no patience with those who said that the Con- 
federates thought they were right in fighting for slavery; 
they kneiv they were right. There are indications now 
and then that the remembrance of the institution is not so 
abhorrent to all persons that there is no need of recalling 
some of its features which may show that it was its own 
reason for its "abolishment," to use Lincoln's word. 

In any brief portrayal of its prominent characteristics 
allowance should be made for the inherited convictions of 
those whose fathers grew up under its shadow. Although 
slaveholders were a minority of the white population in the 
South, they were leaders of opinion and were taught by 
statesmen, of whom Calhoun was chief, that slavery was 
both a divinely ordered and humane condition for the Negro;. 
Northern opinion, formed largely by personal narratives 
of fugitives from bondage, differed from the Southern view. 


Travellers, as a rule, confirmed Northern impressions. 
If "St. Clair" represented the kindlier side, "Legree" 
stood for inhuman possibilities. It is what can be safely 
committed under any code that stamps it as good or bad. 

To begin with the general conditions of slave existence, 
apart from exceptional incidents, it is fair to say that they 
were undesirable. If a compulsory absence of liberty was 
offset in a measure by an assured subsistence to the 
Negroes, it may be asked what kind of living was fur- 
nished them. Trustworthy accounts and statistics place 
the cost of food for the plantation hand at from seven- 
teen dollars and fifty cents to twenty dollars per year, 
or from two and a half to five cents a day — mostly for 
cornmeal, sometimes with bacon and molasses. Clothing 
in quality was cheap and coarse; in quantity it grew less 
with parallels of latitude. Comfortable cabins were not 
uncommon, but huts that were a mere shelter for the night, 
foul and wretched, were the rule. There was little time 
or inclination to clean house after a long day's work. 
This, on cotton and sugar plantations, was from fifteen 
to eighteen hours in length, according to the season; the 
toilers' only stimulus a gang-driver's lash, as admitted 
by the Southern author of the "Pro-slavery Argument," 
and corroborated by the general testimony of planters. 
Nor was the whip discarded at the house among a higher 
grade of servants as guests often testified. In general, 
the management of slaves did not greatly differ from that 
of animals, according to intelligence and tractability. 
Doubtless their understanding was dull and their tempers 
provoking, but two hundred and forty years of toil and 
degradation imposed upon a race was not an eminently 


exalting or Christianizing process. If the African in rice 
swamps, cane brakes, and cotton fields was reduced to 
almost a brute, the genuine religious spirit prevailing in the 
South in other matters ought to have established something 
nearer to the ideals of the Society for the Prevention of 
Cruelty to Animals than the slave codes and their 
observance in Southern states. 

The fact that in return for such food, housing, and treat- 
ment as they received, the labour of slaves under duress often 
netted their owner 35 per cent, annually on his investment 
does not establish the equity of slaveholding, as it did not 
improve its conditions so much as might be expected. It was 
a recommendation for the generally despised overseer if he 
added to the profits of a large crop by reducing outlays for 
provisions and clothing to the lowest figures. If the hands 
deteriorated in consequence, it was counted cheaper to buy 
a new lot once in seven years and wear out the old. Large 
profits accordingly went to new investments in land and 
Negroes, but with high interest on crops often mortgaged in 
advance and extravagant prices on supplies furnished on long 
credit. Yet, in spite of wasteful methods, large fortunes could 
be accumulated when slave labour cost less than ten cents a 
day. Meantime the increasing price of Negroes with dif- 
ficulty prevented the revival of the slave trade, and made suc- 
cessful ventures to the Guinea coast as profitable to smugglers 
as they were disastrous to their living cargoes. If supplies 
were drawn from slave-breeding states, another kind of misery 
followed in the breaking up of families, to which was added 
a fate which the Virginia or Kentucky Negro dreaded as 
death in his consignment to labour in Gulf states. Worse 
than threats of flogging was that of selling him farther south. 


Soon or late both commonly were made good; the sale 
because a prime field hand brought from a thousand to 
fifteen hundred dollars. Local traffic in market towns or by 
private bargain brought its discomfort in removals to strange 
surroundings, even if a change of masters happened to be for- 
tunate. If it was not, the terrors of Red River might be ad- 
ded to the loss of comparative happiness on Lake Ponchar- 
train. The average Negro might not resent being sold with 
horses and mules, cattle and hogs, but dealers who adver- 
tised that " families are never separated " betrayed the better 
sense of their communities about a not uncommon practice. 
However, time adjusts human beings to expected misfor- 
tunes, the Negro perhaps sooner than the white man. But 
there was one disaster that was always lurking along his daily 
path. His master sometimes called it by the euphemism 
"correction"; he knew it as flogging. It might be the 
whipping the youngster got who had run wild and was to be 
broken into work; no worse than some Northern farmers 
are said to have given their disobedient sons in the last century 
or severe schoolmasters their idle pupils. Again it might be a 
chastisement that disabled the slave for some days; or it was 
sometimes a scourging that killed him. To be sure, there 
were laws on some statute books against such crime, but 
their recorded violation without penalty proves the liability 
of death to the slave by fiendish torture. Incidentally, the 
master's temper was exhibited; also the barl)arity of a 
lauded institution. This was no doubt, in some of its aspects, 
patriarchal and parental; but a backward look through 
twenty centuries is required to find a code which practically 
overlooks the murder of a servant, if not of a son or a 
daughter born of a slave mother. 


Instances of burning alive may be passed over on the 
ground that the practice survived the system, being then and 
now the work of a mob rather than of a master. The evil that 
an institution does may live after it, set a bad example, and 
die slowly. In one respect an old condition is improved, as 
amalgamation at the South is said to have diminished some- 
what since Negroes have become owners of their persons. 

In the face of these greater wrongs to a race it seems trivial 
to mention minor ones, such as the forbidding of instruction 
to those who may have desired it, and of some other improv- 
ing privileges. Nor is it necessary to observe at length the 
reflex influences of slavery upon the morals and manners, 
the ambitions and disposition, and even the dialect of the 
ruling oligarchy, fostering arrogance, political dictation, and 
imperious command, while the majority, the poor whites, 
subserviently followed, upholding and defending a system 
that was their bane. 

These recoiling evils, however, were not the most apparent 
ones to reformers. Those which fell directly upon the sub- 
ject slave, calling out protests from leaders of opinion South 
and North in the early years of the Republic, appealed to 
later advocates of emancipation. A few whose eyes had not 
been blinded by the golden dust of profitable trade, whose 
vision was as open and clear as their forefathers' had been, 
believed that the cause of freedom had grown more important 
with the growth of slavery and its increased rigours. These 
crimes against human rights they deemed great enough to 
demand desperate attack. Hence the immediate emancipa- 
tion phase of anti-slavery.^ 

ipor a fuller account of Southern slavery see Rhodes's " History of the United States," 
i., chap, iv., with reference to the full sources of information about it. 


Before some of the features of this onset are noticed it may 
be well at the present distance from it to observe the race pre- 
judice which survives and sometimes belittles the contest. 
It is difficult to define the ideas which mention of the Negro 
raises in different minds, especially when it is remembered 
that few persons can contemplate five or ten individuals or 
objects at once. Hence, a class or a race becomes as confused 
a picture as a distant crowd, or resolves itself into one speci- 
men after another — usually those best known, good or bad. 
Opinion of the average black man should be based upon the 
same observation as in the instance of other races, the white 
included, namely, of good, bad, and indifferent examples. 
There are noble and degraded natures in all; but even the 
Caucasian family has not as a whole reached heights where 
in matters of sobriety, integrity, patriotism, and good citizen- 
ship it can be no pharisee when it says, ** God, I thank thee 
that I am not as this publican " — this black republican. 
If the complexion of any of the sunburned peoples could be 
bleached much of race distinction would vanish. According 
to the recent declaration of biological science the blood of all 
men is the same, whatever their difference in colour or 
feature. As St. Paul declared to the men of Athens in 
A. D. 48, "He hath made of one hlood all nations of men."^ 
It was the human being beneath the Ethiopian's skin which 
Phillips and his co-philanthropists saw, and Avhich Southern 
men always recognized more readily than Northern. The 
bone of contention between the two sections was the natural 

i"I am not aware that Wendell Phillips or William Lloyd Garrison ever claimed that the 
Negro race was equal in its capacity for improvement to the white race." W._ F. Poole, 
"Anti-slavery Opinions Before 1800," p. 16. This should be borne in mind in view of 
charges often made against the two agitators as contending for equality of the two races in 
all respects. P>eedom and citizenship were what they demanded for the blacks rather 
than social commingling. 


rights of the coloured man despite his native and imposed 
limitations and his colour. 

In summing up the cause which is the explanation of a 
life, it may be said that to the Negro it would not have 
seemed extravagant if General Sherman had coupled 
slavery with war in his famous and sulphurous metaphor. 
Doubtless the planter, in the shade of his broad veranda, 
would have deemed such a lurid comparison over- 
heated, and textile manufacturers in the North, with 
ministers and deacons in churches, would have agreed with 
him. But if they had all been herded under the blazing 
sun for a long day in a cotton field, working under the 
stimulus of a driver's lash, they would have discovered a 
new and vivid illustration of the place of torment. Those 
who first descried it from afar were called wild fanatics and 
incendiaries. They simply saw a sufficient reason for 
unusual protest. The cause of freedom from such a bon- 
dage they deemed worthy of labour and sacrifice in the 
face of opposition and persecution. Time justified their 
opinion and rewarded their efforts. 




'TT HAS been needful to outline the growth of opinion 
-■- adverse to American slavery up to the year 1835 and 
to portray its features as a sectional and domestic institution 
in order to understand anti-slavery sentiment, and what the 
acceptance of its extremes signified to Wendell Phillips. 
If he did not fully comprehend their radical character, he 
could foresee some of the early consequences of his decision. 
By every token he should have been one of those whom 
James L. Homer, editor of the Commercial Gazette, called 
"gentlemen of standing and property," constituting a large 
portion of the Garrison mob. He was sitting in his office* 
on Court Street, that October day when he heard the tumult 
and saw a crowd hurrying toward the City Hall. Following 
it, he became a witness of its riotous acts. He soon met 
John C. Park, colonel of the Suffolk regiment in which 
he also was an officer, and said, "Why not call out the 
guards?" Pointing to the mob. Park replied, "Don't 
you see that the regiment is in front of you.^" The mer- 
chants' clerks and other young men of the city militia 
would not have donned their uniform to shoot their friends 
for attacking an abolitionist who was imperilling Southern 
trade, even if the Mayor had statute authority to call out the 



military, about which there was doubt and discussion 
afterward. Doubtless the young lawyer informed himself 
further respecting the suppression of riots. At least such 
knowledge would be useful in subsequent years^> 

r[t is not possible to say how far Phillips had become 
an abolitionist before this outbreak. His friend Weld 
thought that his conversion dated from 1831, four years 
before. He certainly had not shown great sympathy with 
reformatory movements while in college, particularly in 
his speech against the formation of a class temperance 
society, which he succeded in preventing. He could not 
have failed to hear something of the anti-slavery agitation 
which followed the publication of the first number of the 
Liberator on the New Year's Day of his Senior year; but 
college politics and approaching Commencement, to say 
nothing of the Gentleman's Club and its aristocratic senti- 
ments, would have more interest for him than the vagaries 
of a few uneasy philanthropists. In the Law School, where 
the nature and formation of the Constitution was a topic 
of study, it is likely that its clauses protecting slavery were 
discussed, since Judge Story, as early as 1822, had offered 
resolutions favouring colonization in a meeting where 
Daniel Webster left the room, saying that "it was a scheme 
of slaveholders to get rid of free Negroes." In Phillips's 
middle year at the school several books and tracts were 
published, one of which came to his attention, Mrs. Childs's 
"Appeal in Favour of That Class of Americans Called 

The first anti-slavery pamphlet, however, he "received 
from Ellis Gray Loring, marked with his familiar writing, 
the record of his appearance before the Massachusetts 


Senate to protest against the attempt to punish meetings 
like these with the state prison." Loring, a school friend 
and companion of Emerson, a young lawyer with thriving 
practice, had espoused the unpopular cause to the sacrifice 
of fees and social standing; but he never regretted his 
course nor wavered in his adhesion. x\t least half of Dr. 
Channing's anti-slavery reputation belonged to Ellis Gray 
Loring. \ Some have dated Phillips's conversion to aboli- 
tionism from the day of the Garrison mob. It is more 
probable that his principal sentiment then was one of indig- 
nation at the outrage perpetrated against the right of free 
speech, which was shared by the best citizens when they 
came to their senses. Moreover, one of his first public 
utterances two years later at an abolition meeting where 
he openly allied himself with the cause was a defence 
of the ancient right of petition and free discussion. Unre- 
strained speech was always his main dependence in 
reformatory efforts/) 

/in the meantime there was another more direct agency 
in Wendell Phillips's conviction of the merits of the move- 
ment. Miss Ann Terry Greene, daughter of Benjamin 
Greene, a wealthy shipping merchant of Boston, had been 
left an orphan at an early age, and was living with an uncle 
and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Henry G. Chapman, friends of Mr. 
Garrison, and devoted to his philanthropic purposes. 
In the early winter of 1836, Miss Greene was to accompany 
home to Greenfield a cousin of hers. Miss Grew, who had 
just become the fiancee of Mr. Alford, a friend of Phillips 
and Charles Sumner. These two were invited by the lover 
to join the stage-coach party in order to divert the other 

*"Life of William Lloyd Garrison," by his sons, ii., 55. 


lady, ** giving him a better opportunity for that exclusive 
devotion which became a part of his new condition." 
Sumner was the first to promise to go ; but the next morning's 
storm sent him back to bed with the remark that "on such 
a day he would not go on a stage ride with any woman," 
a natural observation from a man who did not find a wife 
for thirty years. But Wendell was more chivalrous than 
Charles, and found himself assigned by his friend to the 
girl who had been described as "the cleverest, loveliest, 
most brilliant young woman, but a rabid abolitionist. Look 
out or she will talk you into that 'ism, before you suspect 
what she is about." She herself said that she "talked it 
all the way to Greenfield and while he was there; that he 
listened and [afterward in Boston] came again, and that 
his fate was sealed." In two particulars, as the event 
proved; for within a year their engagement was announced, 
and they were married on October 12, 1837. As for the 
other particular, Phillips used to say over and over, "My 
wife made an out and out abolitionist of me; and she 
always preceded me in the adoption of the various causes 
I have advocated." Yet, to all her zeal in making a new 
convert may be added a woman's reason for some of it, 
not concealed from herself it appears; for she confessed: 
"When I first met Wendell I used to think, 'It can never 
come to pass; such a being as he could never think of me.' 
I looked upon it as something strange as a fairy tale. I can- 
not help thinking how little I have acquired, while Wendell, 
only two years older, seems to know a world more." 

Still, as the story goes, she had the heroism to ask him, when 
he offered himself, if he was fully persuaded to be the friend 
of the slave, a question that might have been unsafe to ask of 


most of the young men in his circle. She did not have to wait 
long for the answer: "My life shall attest the sincerity of my 
conversion." V An invalid through some defect of nervous 
organization, she was compelled to keep her room and much 
of the time her bed by reason of weakness and pain. Rarely 
to be seen by any except a few intimate friends, she was joy- 
ous in disposition, with unfailing good spirits and fond of fun 
and stories; in which respect her husband matched her, 
so that "hilarity was with them an abiding guest." His 
unwearied devotion to his wife, however, was one of the 
features of his life which withdrew him from many social and 
civic activities. By no means a recluse from choice, or of a 
retiring disposition, and always interested in public affairs, 
he was more mindful of the enforced solitude of one to whom 
his companionship was the almost sole relief, yet who could 
rarely accompany him on social occasions, and scarcely ever 
hear him speak in public. In every sense he had to be, and 
was glad to be, all the world to her, and to acknowledge in 
turn that she was the inspirer of his best efforts and a w^ise 

I Phillips's first acquaintance among abolitionists was in and 
through the Chapman family, when he was a privileged 
visitor to Miss Greene, meeting such sympathizers in the 
cause as happened in. One day Garrison called when the 
suitor was on an errand of his own, and the two men met who 
were to be, each in his way, the foremost apostles of freedom 
for an oppressed race. Garrison, the elder by six years, the 
organizing and executive head, had already been in the work 
seven years, lecturing and printing newspapers and tracts for 

i"Ann Phillips," by Mrs. Alvord, quoted by Martyn, p. 86; also "Ann Phillips, A Memo- 
rial Sketch," Anon., in library of Harvard University. 


the information of any who would read them. The younger 
man just at that time was taking his first lessons; but the 
day was not far off when he should be the chief speaker of a 
growing sect, as one Paul of Tarsus had been. But, unlike 
the Lycaonians, Bostonians did not say of these two, "The 
gods are come down to us in the likeness of men." They 
said things antithetical instead, which were further empha- 
sized all the way from New York to New Orleans. And each 
one of the two returned compliments in his own effective way.\ 

[ The meeting of these early leaders had interesting features. 
The circumstance that one was born poor in everything 
belonging to worldly advantages, had educated himself, and 
made himself a power aggressive and resistant, and was win- 
ning his way despite obstacles that were greater than had 
confronted any other American, appealed to a kindred spirit 
whom fortune had loaded with every gift; wealth, social posi- 
tion, academic privileges, professional business, and an out- 
look toward political honours. If the older man had some- 
thing to gain and not much to lose, and was gaining something 
every week and every year, the younger saw that in this 
alliance he, for his part, was throwing to the winds everything 
that had made life sweet and honourable, save his faith in 
Deity and the supreme object of his affection. On these 
two foundations he must build the superstructure of his life 
and labour. It is possible that to these he added a third, as 
he certainly had good reason to, namely, confidence in him- 
self. Thus armoured, it was fitting that the younger should 
receive the accolade of knighthood from the elder by the 
hearthstone of his well-beloved. 

/^If, however, he had not been possessed by a chivalrous 
spirit, all favouring influences might have been of no 


permanent efficacy. Many a man has given good hope and 
made fair promises of noble endeavour in love's roseate morn- 
ing whom the dust and heat of the day has turned back to 
plodding in commonplace ways, or at best in paths that lead 
to goals of ordinary ambition. Rare spirits only hold fast to 
ideals that are revealed in better moments and attain supreme 
results. .Without such an idealism Phillips might have been 
satisfied with the prizes which a legal or political career 
held out to a man of his inheritance, tastes, and trainins:. 
But beyond the emoluments of professional and civic success 
stood the ideal of a republic more than Platonic in its adjust- 
ment of rights and privileges among all its inhabitants. To 
help establish such a state he was ready to surrender personal 
advantages which are counted great and to labour for this 
ideal kingdom of righteousness with no thought of self- 
aggrandisement. There was no possibility of this in the 
crusade he was joining. Instead, there was the certainty of 
immediate deprivation with no reasonable prospect of 
recompense in a lifetime. Such a chivalric idealism explains 
much of his early career and accounts for some of his later 
and less successful undertakings. At all times it impelled 
him beyond the customary beliefs of contemporaries and 
^nto positions far in advance of them. 

vThe first of these was taken at a meeting of the Massa- 
chusetts Anti-slavery Society, held at Lynn on March 26,1837. 
Evidently he felt that it was time to make public profession of 
alliance with the few who had espoused the cause of imme- 
diate emancipation. It should be remembered that this 
announcement antedates by nearly a year his appearance 
in Faneuil Hall, which is sometimes taken as his entrance into 
the lists. 


There was deliberation enough about this first confession 
of his purpose to result in a "Resolution" which he took with 
him or drev/ up after his arrival. In either case, there is no 
sign of unpreparedness in the speech with which he supported 
it. This has the marks of a maiden speech in an avowal of 
consecration to a cause needing the help of all, and, by con- 
sequence, having the speaker's sympathy and promise of 
support. The report of it three weeks later, doubtless w^ith 
the orator's sanction, gave as its title, "Special Consecration," 
and the Resolution read before the speech was as follows: 

Resolved, That, having a great work to do, and but com- 
paratively feeble means wherewith to do it, our influence and 
effort should be devoted mainly to the cause of abolition. 

The sentiment is appropriate but general; a broad base 
for a comprehensive survey of the task before a small but 
devoted band; and, therefore, the demand upon each and 
every member of it imperative to do aU that he can. After 
summing up the difficulties in their path, the weight of public 
opinion, the prejudice of centuries, the present interest of 
almost every man in the Union, the passions of one half of it, 
the indifference of the other, he asked : 

And what have we to offer against all this — ^ Interest, 
counting his dollars; Lust gloating over his gratification; 
Ambition numbering up his votes; Prejudice rushing 
forward with closed eyes; Political power, rooted deep 
as the Union, controlling its policy and movements by 
slave votes ; Love of power, increased by the use of it — all 
these common to North and South. . . . We are not 
contending for the liberties of the slave alone. Free 
discussion, the right of petition, and freedom for ourselves 
and posterity. 


He then turned to the plea that slavery has been and 
is dying. 

Dead is it? How comes it then, if you but touch 
it, that it rocks the Union to its .centre and V)ase? 
You say wait and it will die away. Why, then, does it 
ask for more territory.? ... If our work be not 
done imrq.ediately, it may be that it cannot be done at 
all. We should come up to this work with our whole 
hearts because the sin of slavery taints the whole atmosphere, 
corrupts the life-blood of the nation, and renders all its liber- 
ties insecure by destroying the basis on which they rest: 
because it is a national sin and exposes us to the judgment 
of heaven. He who sees nothing in the signs of the times, 
in the state of public sentiment which the discussion of this 
subject has revealed, that leads him to doubt the duration 
of our government, must be blind indeed. . . . Slavery 
is a national sin — and I address New Englanders, who 
believe that God judges the nations. How long may we 
linger, when his thunderbolts are already hot over our heads ? 
Every other eye may have been closed to the cruelty and 
blood which have stained our escutcheon — every other 
ear may have been deaf to the cry of the oppressed; but the 
eye which never sleeps has watched the prosperity which 
grew fat on the tears and toil of the slave, that ear has 
listened to the sighing of the prisoner, and him who had 
none to help him — and the arm of Omnipotence may even 
now be stretched out to avenge. . . . Let no man in 
the coming year grudge his labour in furthering our peti- 
tions. Now is the crisis. Meet it like men. Spare no 
labour. Waste none on other causes. This work must 
be done now or not at all. Let others wait. Your interest 
demands it. Your duty commands it. Do your duty 
now, and the crisis may never come. The helm of the 
gallant vessel is for a moment in the hand of the North. 
If the steersman slumber we are lost. Only wake, only be 
active, we have passed the breakers, and are safe. 


The entire speech, of which the above gives the tenour, 
could not have occupied over twenty minutes ; but the assem- 
bly did not fail to discover the promise of an advocate of 
its purposes and interests witli such oratorical gifts 
as had not hitherto appeared. Nor could it have been 
insensible to the character and position of the recruit. 

Later in the day, it was seen that this declaratory address 
was not all that he could say upon the subject. At the 
evening session he offered another resolution as follows: 

Resolved, That the exertion of John Quincy Adams and 
the rest of the Massachusetts delegation, who sustained 
him in his defence of the citizens' right of petition, deserves 
the deepest gratitude and the warmest admiration of every 

John Quincy Adams as a factor in the movement against 
slavery should not be overlooked in the attention which 
abolitionists necessarily compel. They were not numerous 
at first, though they soon became so; he stood alone in 
Congress in the midst of general opposition. He had, at 
first, not even the full support of abolitionists; for he was 
not in entire sympathy with their policy. As early as 1820, 
when he was Secretary of State, he foresaw an irrepressible 
conflict between slave and free states with the possible 
dissolution of the Union. Slavery he termed "the great 
and foul stain upon the nation, and the contemplation of its 
abolition worthy of the most exalted soul. Never since 
human sentiments and human conduct were influenced 
by human speech was there a theme for eloquence like 
the free side of this question. If but one man could arise 
with the genius capable of comprehending, and an utter- 
ance capable of communicating those eternal truths that 


belong to this question, to lay bare in all its nakedness that 
outrage upon the goodness of God, human slavery; now 
is the time and this is the occasion, upon which such a 
man would perform the duties of an angel upon earth." 
This was ten years before the crusade began to be preached. 
Five years later, when he became President, there was little 
opportunity to give a practical turn to his sentiments. It 
was the decade of hush before a coming storm, for which 
the South was beginning to draw together, and, especially, 
to become united in its opposition to him, a league which 
he took no particular pains to conciliate. He early com- 
mitted the unpardonable offence of proposing to send 
delegates to the Panama Congress where they would meet 
Haytiens of colour. The open battle, however, did not 
begin until after his presidential term was over, and he 
was sent to Congress as Representative from the Plymouth 
district. He was then placed where he could meet all 
comers in his own way, or their way. They were glad of 
the opportunity, and so was he. They came singly, in 
squads, and the whole host together. They retired in the 
same order, and disorder. He did not fight for a party, 
but for a principle. He loved the joy of battle. If the con- 
flict flagged he provoked his foes into ungovernable wrath; 
then he held them up to withering scorn, showed them their 
blunders, and sent them home humiliated, but hating him 
with fresh intensity. 

These contests were oftenest waged on his side from 
the firm ground of a fundamental principle of human 
government — the right of the subject to petition the ruling 
power, be it King or Congress. Taking his seat in Congress 
in December, 1831, he began to present petitions against 


slavery and the slave trade until the famous "gag rule" 
was passed to lay all such petitions upon the table without 
further action. Upon this Mr. Adams renewed his defence 
of a right older than Norman and Saxon dominion. Oppo- 
sition from enemies and ill-timed aid of friends did not 
disconcert him. When the attempt to expel him was made 
he met it with a speech to which no one wished to reply. 
Then he pursued his routed adversaries with defiance and 
contempt, retorts, and taunts. 

It was when Mr. Adams was in the thickest of the fight on 
the right of petition and the threatening question of annexing 
Texas that Mr. Phillips introduced his resolution of commen- 
dation and gratitude and supported it by a second speech at 
the Lynn meeting. 

This speech is denominated as his first in the second 
series of his collected speeches. It was so placed in the 
columns of the Liberator, but, in an account of the meeting, 
it is remarked that this resolution was discussed in the even- 
ing. Also the Lynn Record of March 29, 1837, says: 

In the evening Resolutions were debated in the First 
Methodist Meeting House by Mr. Phillips and others in sup- 
port of a Resolution in favour of J. Q. Adams. Mr. Phillips 
spoke with great eloquence and effect. His remarks were 
entirely extemporaneous. 

From this testimony it seems that the other speech, already 
commented upon, must have been, instead of this, the one 
which "marked his entrance upon the anti-slavery move- 
ment." It should be added that the second series of his 
speeches was compiled and arranged after his death. 

It was a forceful speech of approbation and of admiration 
for the intrepid defence of the right of petition by Mr. Adams 


in the face of an enraged opposition delegation from the South 
and a subservient one from the North supporting it. Of 
** the old man eloquent " he said : 

His course during the last session deserves the gratitude of 
every American ; for in that contest, he was not the represent- 
ative of any state or party, but the champion of the funda- 
mental principles of the Constitution. The right of petition 
we had thought as firmly fixed in the soil of America as the 
Saxon race which brought it here. It was the breath of life 
during our colonial history, and is recognized on every page 
of our history since as the bulwark of civil liberty. 
Antiquity and the historical associations of our mother 
country had rendered it so sacred that we looked con- 
fidently to that for protection and redress when all other 
means should fail. . . . 

And who does not recollect the thrill of enthusiastic feelino- 
with which we heard that Adams had thrown himself into the 
gap, and was contending, at first single-handed, for the right 
of the citizen to petition, no matter what his creed, his colour, 
or his party ? The effort was the nobler in that he was not a 
member of the body of men in whose persons this right had 
been invaded. No interest of his or his friends had been 
touched. Against our efforts he had all along protested; 
but, statesmanlike, he saw the end from the beginning. 
When rights were invaded, he was willing to side with any 
who rallied to protect them. We hail him as the champion 
of free principles. We accord to him the high merit of a pure 
attachment to civil liberty which would not permit her to be 
attacked, even when she appeared in the garb of a party 
which it was his interest, and he felt it to be a duty, to oppose; 
of a clear-sighted, far-reaching wisdom, which discovered the 
first approach of corruption and snuffed oppression in the 
tainted breeze; of a noble disregard to party lines, when to 
have adhered to them would have compromised the funda- 
mental principles of our Government. 


The main portion of his speech may be regarded as a 
lawyer's advocacy of a great principle of human rights, and 
the other part of it as a reformer's insistence that it be allowed 
to hold in the case of a particular wrong to be presented for 
consideration and removal. As the morning speech was a 
declaration of his new allegiance, so the evening remarks 
may be considered as the announcement of the firm and 
reasonable ground upon which the conflict was to be waged, 
namely, the enlightenment of the people, and the exercise 
of their right to petition the representatives of their will to 
make the nation what it pretended to be, but was not. There 
was no fanaticism and no unreasonableness in this initial 
position. It rested on an inherited right, and on an asser- 
tion made by the fathers of the Republic; on the English 
Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The 
Constitution of the United States, and the Union under it 
were later provisions, to be discussed later in the stress and 
storm that should be hereafter; but now, fundamental prin- 
ciples of law and liberty were the base upon which the 
neophyte began to build. 

It is not amiss to take the two speeches of that spring day 
of 1837 as a single symbol of a maturing purpose. Standing 
side by side on the time-browned pages of a newspaper^ of 
seventy -two years ago they have a unity of their own . So appear 
to us as one the two distant suns which we call the North 
Star — itself the guide of fugitives from bondage, through free 
states where they were not freed, to an inclement province 
where they were no longer slaves, and whence they could not 
be dragged back to servitude. In these two speeches Phillips 
had announced the choice that he had deliberately made, to 

iThe Liberator. 


the great gratification of the Httle company who attended 
the Lynn meeting — and to the profound disgust of everybody 
else, his mother and her family included. To be sure, they 
heard that Wendell made two eloquent addresses. So much 
the worse that they were on a subject about which he had 
better have kept silence, or at least remained non-committal 
until the tide of opinion had begun to turn. He would have 
needed to wait only eight months. 

During these months he was not conspicuous in the meet- 
ings of the Society. His name does not appear on the list 
of officers. He served on two committees to find a church 
that would harbour an anti-slavery convention, meeting with 
ingenious but firm refusals from most of those to whom 
application was made. Some consistently replied that their 
churches were for religious purposes only; some that the 
peace and harmony of their societies would be disturbed; 
others, like the committee of the Old South Church, " deemed 
it inexpedient to grant the request." However, the fourth 
annual meeting of the New England Anti-Slavery Society 
convened in the Methodist Church on Church Street on 
Tuesday, May 30th, and in the Park Street Church on Thurs- 
day; an event thought worthy of mention as "a significant 
sign of the times." The Salem Street meeting house was also 
occupied on two evenings. At these meetings the name 
of John G. Whittier occurs in a committee on business. 
There were no less than thirteen public anti-slavery meetings 
in Boston during the week. No note of Phillips's presence 
at any of them appears, although it is probable that he was 
a listener at some. On the Fourth of July, according to the 
Salem Register, in response to an invitation after his speeches 
at the May meeting he addressed " friends of the cause of 


abolition in this city in the Howard Street Church, and was 
Hstened to with very great attention. It was a spirited and 
sensible performance, and parts of it were truly eloquent. 
There was nothing in it which ought to be objectionable to 
any New England audience." At Worcester, September 
27th, at a quarterly meeting of the Massachusetts Society, 
Phillips appears among the speakers, with no published 
comment on what he said. In the main, it may be inferred 
that he did not covet prominence in the ranks, nor was he 
pushed forward. Friends in his social circle may have said 
that he could not immediately adjust himself to some of the 
companions in arms whom he found in the militant band. 
Or it may be that, like truly great orators, he needed the 
spur of an inspiring occasion, as did his greatest predecessor, 
Daniel Webster, to bring out the best that was in him. Such 
an occasion was near at hand. 

The renunciation which accompanied his consecration 
to the anti-slavery cause was of a kind which showed that 
his devotion to it was complete. He must have foreseen 
that friends would desert him through no fault of his own 
beyond a personal view of what was just and humane; 
and it was a real grief to him that they forsook him and 
called him a deluded fanatic. Besides the loss of friends 
and companions there was the voluntary surrender of a 
profession for which he had been educated and in the prac- 
tice of which lay large hopes. He abandoned it because he 
could not conscientiously follow it under a Constitution 
which recognized property in human beings and sanctioned 
their return to bondage after escape from it. By this 
abdication he could commit himself to an unreserved 
advocacy of human rights in the broader forum of the 


country and before the people as jury and judge. His 
legal learning availed him much, especially in arguments 
before legislators. But pecuniary compensation, forensic 
triumphs, great occasions for public address, and political 
honours must all be surrendered. 

In this renunciation the young man encountered a question 
that comes to most men at some turning point in their 
lives, as to whether they are pursuing their proper vocation 
or an avocation. Circumstances of inheritance, necessity, 
chance, or inconsiderate choice place many Avorkers in 
situations for which they have not an aptitude or a liking. 
Phillips, however, by all testimony, seemed to be in his 
appropriate sphere, and to be more truly "called" to it 
than many of his acquaintances to the occupations they 
had taken up. But to some a voice comes out of the cloud 
that overhangs a busy world; it may be no louder than that 
which the prophet heard after the wind and the earthquake 
and the fire, or that other word which said, "This is the 
way, walk ye in it." Saul of Tarsus heard such a voice 
on the road to Damascus, Peter of Picardy heard one in 
his hermit cell, Joan of Arc in the pastures of Domremy, 
and many another has listened to an "inward call" that 
summoned him away from siren voices, from promises of 
gain and distinction, to self-abnegation, to inconspicuous 
toil, and to meagre compensation. Added to these in 
Phillips's instance were misunderstanding and strife, the 
hostility of enemies, and the desertion of friends. The 
voice within was the only abiding certainty, seconded by 
that of his best friend, and reechoed by a few comrades, 
with varying tones of approbation, according to their own 
notions of what was desirable and feasible. The small 


consideration which he paid to these inharmonious coun- 
sellors indicates the definite clearness of the call to whicli 
he listened and gave loyal heed. To him the war-trumpet 
gave no uncertain sound, and he obeyed its summons 
without cavil and without fear. 




THE position which PhiUips took in the first year of 
his alKance with the anti-slavery movement was 
upon the broad ground of universal freedom and the ancient 
English right of petition. His next step was in defence 
of another general right which had been held sacred since 
Milton wrote his great argument in the " Areopagitica " for 
the liberty of unlicensed printing. 

The policy of repression which Congress had employed 
toward petitions was beginning to be directed against the 
freedom of the press. Andrew Jackson, in his message of 
December 7, 1835, had made the first adverse presidential 
allusion to abolitionism, voicing the sentiments which were 
uttered by state legislatures and Southern newspapers, 
calling upon the North to silence abolition tongues. Then, 
attention was turned to the more dangerous work of "in- 
cendiary" printing presses, whose pestilent sheets were 
found in Southern states, with woe to those in whose hands 
they were found. 

In the face of all this, James Gillespie Birney, an Ala- 
bama lawyer who had freed his slaves, and had been driven 
from the bar of the state and other positions of honour, 
determined to establish an anti-slavery paper in Dan- 



ville, Ky. Violence being threatened by a meeting of citizens 
he crossed the river to Cincinnati, where no better hos- 
pitaUty awaited him. Then he settled in the Quaker town 
of New Richmond, twenty miles up-stream, where in the 
summer of 1835 he issued the Philanthropist. The following 
spring he risked removal to Cincinnati. In three months 
his press and types were damaged by a mob, and on the 
twenty-first of July a committee was appointed to inform 
him that if his paper were not promptly suppressed a mob 
would visit him, in which two-thirds of the property holders 
of the city would join. A mild but fearless man, he declined 
to yield to this demand. On the night of August 1, 1836, 
his ofiice was pillaged, and press and types thrown into 
the river. The Philanthropist passed into the hands 
of Dr. Gamaliel Bailey, and twice afterward its press was 

The next attack upon the freedom of the press occurred 
fifteen months later, with more serious result. St. Louis 
was the scene of it. In the spring of 1836 a Negro who 
had killed an officer arresting him was taken from jail by 
a mob, chained to a tree, and burned alive. One Judge 
Lawless exculpated the miscreants as moved ''by some 
mysterious, metaphysical, and almost electric frenzy," and 
told the grand jury that the case was beyond the reach 
of human law, and therefore transcending their jurisdiction. 
The editor of the St. Louis Observer, Rev. Elijah Parish 
Lovejoy, commented upon the lynching, as editors still 
do upon similar incidents, each from his own point of view. 
Lovejoy was not a full-fledged abolitionist, but he had a 
Northern man's aversion to roasting any animal alive. 
This one being nothing but a "nigger," the editor's remarks 


were offensive to the people of the Missouri city. Called 
to account, he displayed inconvenient ideas about the 
freedom of the press; accordingly, his office was destroyed 
by a gang of citizens. He removed across and up the river 
into Alton, in the free state of Illinois, but as soon as his 
press was landed it was broken to pieces. Certain citizens 
furnished funds to buy another. In August, 1837, office 
and press were again destroyed. Another was purchased, 
broken up, and thrown into the Mississippi. Then, friends 
rallied and resolved that "the cause of human rights, liberty 
of speech and the press, demand that the Alton Observer 
be reestablished with its present editor." A fourth press 
arrived on November 7th. The Mayor superintended its 
transfer to a warehouse, and, great excitement prevailing, 
he appointed a special force to guard it. Seeing no sign of 
an assault, most of the guard left at nine in the evening, 
intrusting the care of the press to the editor and a dozen 
friends. Soon thirty or forty roughs, who had imbibed 
valour at neighbouring grog-shops, attacked the building 
with stones and shots. Cries were raised to "Fire the build- 
ing"; "Burn them out"; "Shoot every abolitionist as he 
leaves!" The firing was returned and one rioter killed. 
A torch was applied and as the defenders came out Mr. 
Love joy fell pierced by five bullets. The press was then 
broken in pieces and thrown into the river. 

This act set a thousand other presses humming, a million 
Americans reading, and many men speaking strong words. 
But the words which were printed, read, and spoken were 
-by no means the same. In the North there was general 
unanimity on the freedom of speech and the press, some 
disagreement about slavery, and more with regard to aboli- 


tionism. In the Ohio country there was a strong feeHng for 
freedom of speaking and printing if it did not touch Southern 
interests. In the South the incident at Alton was regarded 
as a just retribution upon a meddler, but with apprehension 
as to what it might do for anti-slavery sentiment. Certainly 
it did not contribute to the diminution of membership in 
societies formed to disseminate abolition principles. And, 
as these were published more and more, controversy grew 
bitter throughout the nation. In the Northern heavens, 
sullen clouds were driven by contrary winds; in the South- 
ern sky, heat lightening flashed from the Atlantic to the 
Mississippi River, and there were mutterings of a threatened 

Tidings of the tragedy reached Boston after twelve days, 
on Sunday forenoon, November 19th — such was the speed 
with which news travelled in 1837. "The Rev. Mr. Brown- 
son, in the afternoon, preached an impressive sermon on the 
occurrence"; but most of the ministers did not pronounce 
upon the subject at once. Early in the week Dr. Channing, 
at the instigation of Ellis Gray Loring, circulated a petition 
asking the city government to allow the use of Faneuil Hall 
for a meeting of citizens in reprobation of the Alton riot. 
The aldermen declined, "lest the sense of the meeting be 
taken as the opinion of the city in other places," presumably 
to the southward. An appeal from this decision to the 
people was followed by a meeting in the Common Council 
room, where sundry resolutions were passed, which the city 
fathers respected enough to grant petitioners permission to 
hold a meeting on December 8th — " in the daytime, lest 
if it should he held in the evening Boston might see another 


The Huguenot hatred of despotism which Peter Faneui) 
built into the hall that he gave to the city in 1742 was con- 
tinued in the town hall which rose from its ashes in 1763; for 
in the decade before the Revolution, patriots made its walls 
echo with denunciations of British tyranny. Since then, the 
old " Cradle of Liberty " had been so unreservedly open to free 
discussion (except by abolitionists) that in the drift of public 
opinion a pro-slavery meeting had been held in it on August 
21, 1835, in the sixtieth year of American independence. 
At this meeting the most respectable citizens vied with one 
another in supporting resolutions deprecating disturbance 
of the South by Northern agitators, and reaffirming the pro- 
slavery compromise of 1789; this however, did not satisfy 
the demand which the South had made for repression of free 
speech and printing. Penal legislation, with hanging for 
agitators, was what was desired. The Garrison mob, two 
months later, was the first result of this meeting. But populai' 
sentiment had been changing slowly since that outbreak, and 
had received sufficient acceleration by the iVlton affair to make 
a turning point somewhere between the refusal and the grant- 
ing of the hall. At ten o'clock on the morning of December 8th 
five thousand people packed the hall to overflowing. The 
Hon. Jonathan Phillips, as chairman, stated that the meeting 
was not in favour of any party, but to maintain the spirit oi 
universal freedom, the essential and fundamental principles 
of civil liberty. After an invocation of the divine blessing by 
Rev. E. M. P. Wells, Dr. Channing replied to those who 
thought him out of place in such a meeting as well as to those 
who had expected him to discuss the tragedy in his pulpit; 
adding that he preferred to join the citizens of Boston in 
expressing in a public manner their abhorrence of lawlessness ; 


and he spoke at length in a similar strain. Resolutions drawn 
by Dr. Channing, and offered by B. F. Hallett, Esq., were 
seconded by George S. Hillard in a speech which deplored 
the increasing frequency of mobs deliberately organized. 
So far, the meeting appeared to favour law and order. Then 
the Attorney-General of the state, James Trecothic Austin, 
from the rear gallery addressed the assembly. After a 
thrust at the "abstractions" that had been uttered, and a 
laudation of the Bill of Rights, he declared that this meeting 
had been convened for an application of these rights to events 
in the State of Illinois, and to sympathy for the death of an 
editor there. He sympathized with the people of slave states 
who lived in constant fear of their lives through danger of 
slave insurrection. The free state in which the disturbance 
had occurred was trying to exercise a neighbourly duty of 
upholding the laws and prejudices of a slave state, and in the 
process a man was killed and died "as the fool dieth." 
Liberty of speech and the press were to be used with reference 
to others' rights. What can we expect than that an abolition 
press will be destroyed if it is established in a slave state or on 
its borders ? — and so on for two reported columns. 

The opposition element in the crowd, reinforced by the 
indifferent and unreasoning, shifty applauders of every 
speaker, nearly created a stampede from the hall. The 
assembly was beginning to resemble that at Ephesus when 
the city's trade was endangered by a certain reformer — 
" Some cried one thing and some another : for the assembly 
was in confusion; and the more part knew not wherefore 
they had come together." 

Phillips, standing with the multitude, for there were no 
seats, remarked that such assertions ought to be answered; 


and someone suggested that he do it, to whom he repHed, 
"I will if you will help me toward the platform." This 
was the "lecturn" from which Dr. Channing had spoken. 
The fact that Phillips was in the crowd and not near the 
chairman has given the impression that his speaking was 
upon an impulse of the moment. On the contrary, it is more 
than probable that he had been invited to be one of the 
speakers, and that it had been arranged that he should follow 
Mr. Hillard,^ when Austin broke in from the gallery, and left 
the hall as soon as he had finished his speech. There was no 
time for an introduction to the audience, unknown as the 
young man was to most of it. He introduced himself by 
saying: "Mr. Chairman: We have met for the freest dis- 
cussion of these resolutions and the events that gave rise to 
them." He had struck the American note of fair play, and, 
despite cries from Austin's following for putting the question, 
he elicited others of, "Hear him," "Go on," and "No gag- 
ging." In a single sentence he had captured the attention of 
the majority by his presence and personality. He then 
went on to say : 

I hope I shall be permitted to express my surprise at the 
sentiments of the last speaker — surprise not only at such 
sentiments from such a man, but at the applause they have 
received within these walls. A comparison has been drawn 
between the events of the Revolution and the tragedy at Alton. 
We have heard it asserted here, in Faneuil Hall, that Great 
Britain had a right to tax the colonies, and we have heard the 
mob at Alton, the drunken murderers of Love joy, compared 
to those patriot fathers who threw the tea overboard! 

^So stated in the Liberator's report of the meeting. Yet I have been told that Phillips assured 
the father of my informant that he did not expect to speak when he entered the hall. Upon 
which a friend of Mr. Phillips remarked to me, "It might have been an instance of his 
memory failing him." It is also an example of the contradictions of testimony. 


Fellow-citizens, is this Faneuil Hall doctrine ? The mob at 
Alton were met to wrest from a citizen his just rights — met 
to resist the laws. We have been told that our fathers did 
the same: and the glorious mantle of Revolutionary prec- 
edent has been thrown over the mobs of our day. To make 
out their title to such defence, the gentleman says that the 
British Parliament had a right to tax these Colonies. . . . 
Sir, when I heard the gentleman lay down principles which 
place the murderers of Alton side by side with Otis and Han- 
cock, with Quincy and Adams, I thought those pictured lips 
would have broken into voice to rebuke the recreant Ameri- 
can, the slanderer of the dead. Sir, for the sentiments he has 
uttered, on soil consecrated by the prayers of Puritans and 
the blood of patriots the earth should have yawned and 
swallowed him up. 

From this point the speech bears less reference to what the 
Attorney-General had said, and more to the talk of some in 
the community, including editorials and sermons. It is 
possible that this would have been the burden of his discourse 
if the man in the gallery had not spoken. Expressions like 
"The statement which has been made," "It has been asked," 
"Some persons seem to imagine," and similar introductory 
sentences appear to preface what he intended to say if he 
had spoken according to the announcement that he was 
expected to speak and that he was to follow Mr. Hillard. 
A note of premeditation is evident in the scoring of Rev. 
Hubbard Winslow, pastor of the Bowdoin Street Church, who 
had gone out of his way to define republican liberty as "the 
liberty to do what the prevailing voice of the brotherhood will 
allow and protect." 

By such contemporary testimony as can be obtained it 
must be concluded that this speech was considered a most 
remarkable one in a day when oratory of a high order was 


common. Webster, Everett, and Choate, each in his own 
way, had accustomed the citizens of Boston to dehberative, 
occasional, and forensic eloquence, generally the result of 
premeditation and preparation. But, so far as the audience 
could see, this speech by a new man was impromptu. He had 
sprung from the throng uncalled, unannounced, and unknown, 
except by a few. He apparently had no time to consider what 
he should say in reply to an unexpected harangue which had 
nearly defeated the purpose of the meeting. One more such 
would have accomplished this result. It was plain that 
the young man had turned the wavering assembly back to the 
original sentiment of the majority, and had recalled the 
better sense of the multitude to the vital issue that had been 
imperilled in Illinois, and had now been nearly abandoned in 
Massachusetts. He had headed off an inglorious stampede 
from independence to subserviency, from liberty of speech 
and of printing to the gag-law and censorship of the press. 
To do this in the way it was done was more than to charm an 
audience for an hour with periods which voice its concurrent 
beliefs. It was an exceptional triumph of oratory under 
adverse conditions, and it will stand among the very few 
instances when the speaking man, and his personality behind 
his words, have together been stronger than the collective 
mind of a multitude.^ 

Recognition of the extraordinary achievement was spon- 
taneous and unstinted. But it was not unqualified ; for with 
great praise for the wonderful performance, material enough 

1" Phillips was already a favourite public speaker before Sumner had given any promise 
of future distinction as an orator." Pierce's "Life of Sumner," i., 155. But in ii., 7 the 
author remarks that Phillips "began his career as an orator in his reply to Austin." Sumner 
began his in a Fourth of July address on "The True Grandeur of Nations," ten years later, 
1845. ■^^■. »•. 384- 


was at hand for the detraction with which people love to 
interlard their commendation, and show how well balanced 
their own judgments are. Therefore, after the vociferous 
applause was over, and the favourable comments of the 
departing crowd had been uttered, and glowing reports of it 
given at many dinner tables, and soberer mention made in 
one newspaper after another, notes of regret followed quick 
and often that the young lawyer should have sacrificed such 
talents and prospects to the unpopular cause which lay back 
of the one which he had defended so well, but upon which 
(abolitionism) all the speakers had been pledged not to touch. 
Doubtless, too, there were some who said that he could never 
do so well again, and that with "one-speech Hamilton" he 
would earn his reputation by a single effort, but never add 
to it afterward. 

As the biographic imagination is sometimes charged with 
extravagance in its interpretation of events long past, it may 
be well to note how contemporaries viewed the occurrence. 
First, the resolutions were carried with unexpected unanimity 
— "after the whirlwind of applause had died away," one 
says. It was better than this. A Mr. Bond followed Mr. 
Phillips in a speech long enough and ordinary enough to 
allow the enthusiasm of the audience to cool; accordingly, 
conviction must have been produced sufficiently abiding to 
secure a vote of "unexpected unanimity"; although the 
parenthetical clause — "a considerable number not voting at 
all" — indicates that conservative Boston had its doubts on 
the subject of unlicensed printing, as the forefathers had in 
the days of the Cambridge press which gave them so much 
trouble despite its appointed censors. Mr. Garrison's paper 
said that "Mr. Phillips replied with great effect," and 


includes him among those who made "admirable speeches." 
But Mr. Garrison did not think that the object of the meeting 
went far enough in not insisting upon discussion of the 
slavery question. The same paper quotes from the Daily 
Advocate's correspondent a most enthusiastic description of 
"the torrent of eloquence of irresistible force, which was 
cheered from every quarter of the hall and echoed and 
reechoed through its arches when he sat down." The 
Westminster Review of December, 1838, in an article by 
Harriet Martineau, observed: 

The crisis to which this meeting brought the fate of the 
abolitionists hung at last for the space of three minutes 
upon the lips of one very young speaker, who was heard 
only because of his rank. It came to the turn of a hair 
whether the atrocious mob-speech of the Attorney-General 
should be acted upon, or whether liberty of speech and 
the press should prevail. Happily the eloquence of young 
Mr. Phillips secured the victory.^ 

Similar testimony to his impromptu address occurred in 
other publications. It was chiefly remarkable for the power 
to adapt readily to the demands of an occasion the conclusions 
at which the speaker had arrived by meditation. They were 
to him what their "commonplaces" were to the old Roman 
orators, but of more vital consequence. This is the best 
explanation of his immediate power. It was what he saw 
imperilled that gave force to the skill of his deliberate speech. 
The man was behind the orator. And beyond the man was 
the principle of freedom to discuss any proposition, not 
excluding the inscription on the bell that swung over Indepen- 

^This speech was ranked by George William Curtis with Patrick Henry's farewell oration 
at Williamsburg and with Lincoln's at Gettysburg. 


dence Hall, to "proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants of the 

But after all contemporary testimony has been taken there 
remains an uncounted factor which is as volatile and power- 
ful as an ethereal force of nature. This may be called the 
dramatic element which sometimes attends effective speech. 
Evolved from the occasion, the speaker, and the audience it 
becomes pervasive like a spirit of the air and of the storm, 
and its doings cannot be accounted for by the principles of 
common experience. There was nothing intentionally 
dramatic in this sudden appearance upon the stage of a 
young man comparatively unknown, but many occurrences 
have had a dramatic ending that was unexpected. One event 
that made this speech scenic was the immediate turning of the 
prevailing sentiment away from its direction on account of 
a few words calmly spoken by a young attorney who hap- 
pened to have the rarest power given to man — the control of 
other men's minds. This can best be measured by com- 
paring it with physical prowess. A trained fighter of mar- 
vellous strength might oppose the fore-front of a mob with 
temporary effect in a hand-to-hand encounter, but would 
certainly be overwhelmed by numbers in their growing anger. 
Yet here was a man who in a dozen quiet sentences stilled 
the stormy impulses of five thousand, tdrned prejudice to 
favour, and led the forces which inspire action and direct 
away from one purpose to another and different determina- 
tion. There have been frequent instances where the previous 
disposition of a multitude has been augmented and hurried 
into precipitate acts by inspiring appeals; but there have 
been so few examples of reversing the current of resolve that 
Shakespeare made his great orator's triumph to lie in turning 


the people's hatred of Caesar into fury against his patriotic 
assassins. He thought it dramatically necessary to accom- 
plish this by deliberate and progressive play upon the hearts of 
the populace, urging on and holding back their resentment in 
prolonged discourse. In a single paragraph, addressed to 
nothing beyond the audience's sense of a comparison of their 
forefathers' resistance to taxation by mobbing tea ships to the 
Alton destruction of a printing press with the murder of its 
owner, this man brought about a change of opinion in the 
face of deep-seated prejudice which was more dramatic in its 
suddenness among a throng of intelligent and educated people 
than the hounding on to vengeance of a Roman rabble. It 
was a dramatic end to Demosthenes's speech when the 
assembly cried out, "Up, let us march against Philip," but 
they hated him before the orator fanned their animosity into 
flames. This man turned the assent of the throng to the 
words of his predecessor into repudiation of them, with loud 
acclaim of his branding the recreant American as a slanderer 
of the dead. It was a masterly stroke of oratory — the 
precursor of many such feats — unpremeditated, bold, 
efficacious. The immediate recognition it won was another 
feature of its scenic character, voiced in the tumultuous 
applause that followed, and in the approval of shouted 
agreement with the speaker's sentiments. Citizens went out 
into the winter noon knowing that whatever their opinions 
had been or still were, they had witnessed a dramatic act in 
the old Hall of Patriots such as could not be reproduced on a 
theatrical stage; for the protagonist had set a thousand minds 
in a new direction and recalled thousands more from 
momentary deviation back to the principles of free speech 
and personal liberty for which their forefathers had 


contended. They felt also that an orator of great promise 
had sprung up in the city, and many asked who he was. An 
aristocrat of twenty-six years, who had left his law office and 
the courts, abandoned great prospects, and lost his friends 
and general favour, all for the visionary cause of universal 
liberty in the land — another factor in a career that promised 
to be dramatic in the future. 




AS THE South feared, abolitionism was greatly helped 
by the Alton murder and the comments upon it by 
Northern speakers and writers. The British, who had 
shaken themselves clear of slaveholding in their colonies, 
were now free to denounce it here. Accordingly, anti- 
slavery societies multiplied. Eight hundred of them had 
been formed before 1837, and at the rate of one every day 
during the two previous years. In Ohio, alone, there were 
three hundred, one with a membership of four thousand. 
But, relatively to the entire population, the abolitionists were 
few. In Massachusetts even, there were more than a 
hundred towns where there was no anti-slavery society, 
and Boston itself, where the first one was started six years 
before, was by no means converted to its purposes or con- 
vinced of its usefulness. No immediate results followed the 
Faneuil Hall meeting, since its speakers had been restricted 
to reaffirming the ancient right of free speech, without open 
reference to slavery, the remote cause of assembling. The 
time had not arrived when the city would open the " Cradle 
of Liberty " to speakers who carried the doctrine of Adams 
and Otis and Hancock beyond the white race limit. 



Phillips himself, with his knowledge of men and the hour, 
knew that something more than a single address was needed 
to bring many persons to a new view of an old condition of 
things. If, too, he remembered that the occasion, rightly 
improved, is a large contributor to oratorical success, he could 
hardly hope for another so propitious to occur in the near 
future. However, he improved an opportunity that soon 
presented itself to supplement his Faneuil Hall speech 
with an address on Forefathers' Day, December 22, 1837, 
at a meeting in Marlborough Chapel commemorative of 
Lovejoy. In this he reviewed unfavourable comments 
that had been made on the murdered man's defence 
of his rights, chiefly by non-resistant abolitionists, some 
of the clergy, and pro-slavery advocates. He argued 
as a lawyer, that the Alton editor stood upon his 
constitutional rights; that he was one of the force 
enrolled by the Mayor to sustain the laws; cited the 
precedent of the men who were assembled to protect the 
library of Harvard College at the time of the Mount Benedict 
mob; asserted that Lovejoy's paper was not an abolition 
sheet; that only three out of fifteen or twenty in the build- 
ing were abolitionists; that they took arms, not to vindicate 
slaves' rights, but their own; that the rioters fired first; 
that the ministerial profession confers no right to neglect the 
duties Of a citizen, and forfeits no right to protection; that 
Lovejoy fled from place to place and suffered thrice patiently; 
that insulted law called for justification. In closing he 
touched upon the cause of it all: 

With what an answer has he furnished us to the oft repeated 
question. What has the North to do with slavery.^ Point 
to the grave of Lovejoy and utter no word. The tree of 


slavery may be planted in Southern soil, b«t its cold and 
blighting shadow, its death-distilling branches, are mildewing 
all our free institutions. " Nothing to do with it," when it 
can chill the free speech of Faneuil Hall and make us forget 
that freedom of speech was our fathers' guiding star over the 
ocean ? 

I have one word to add, which shows our immediate duty 
and our city's responsibility. It is said the rioters at Alton 
were heard encouraging each other by reference to old Boston. 
Alas, my native city, art thou indeed so fallen ? To be 
praised by praiseworthy men, was once pronounced the 
highest honour. To what depth of degradation must she 
have fallen, whose time honoured name has become the 
motto and war-cry of a mob ! 

Marlborough Chapel had been built for a rallying place of 
the agitators, and although Phillips's defence of Lovejoy and 
his liberty to speak and print was as restrained and logical as 
a legal argument need be, there were no restraints of speech 
promised. Hence his malediction of the evil influence of 
slavery at the close of this address, and his lament over 
Boston's example on the mob of 1835. 

It became evident to his associates that they had gained 
something more than an enthusiastic philanthropist when, 
on January 26, 1838, he made a still more argumenta- 
tive plea before a committee of the Massachusetts Legisla- 
ture on the unconstitutionality of annexing Texas to the 
Union. He could argue a question of national importance 
before the legislators of a state whose influence was a power 
throughout the North and West. He referred the committee 
to a consideration of the nature of the Constitution as estab- 
lished by the people of the United States for the entire nation, 
and not for one state or section only, tracing the growth of 
this view through the several declaration compacts. He 


discussed at length the question which had been considered 
by the framers of the Constitution regarding the admission of 
new states from territories beyond the hmits of the Union 
fixed by the treaty of 1783. Then he took up the matter 
of acquiring territory by conquest or treaty, and asked if in 
the exercise of the treaty-making power the Government could 
be totally regardless of all other provisions of the Constitu- 
tion. His citation of the opinions of jurists, statesmen, and 
of legislative acts shows what attention he had given %p the 
issue which was becoming of alarming importance; as was 
indicated by this closing paragraph of an hour's argument : 

Sir, Jefferson, when performing what he confessed was an 
unconstitutional act, remarks, "I confide in the good sense of 
our country to correct the evil, when it shall "produce ill 
effects.'' I submit to this committee whether this time has 
not arrived. 

To ally ourselves with Texas, is to hoist the banner of the 
Republic over a slaveship, and become partners in the 
voyage. "To uphold slavery in a new country," said Daniel 
Webster, in 1819, "what is it but to encourage that rapacity, 
fraud, and violence, against which we have so long pointed 
the denunciations of our penal code ? What is it but to 
tarnish the proud fame of our country ? What is it but 
to throw suspicion on its good faith, and render questionable 
all humanity and the liberties of mankind .P'* 

Incidentally it may be noted here that Phillips per- 
fectly understood the value of quoting authorities having 
weight with his hearers; and none could be of more value, in 
addition to that of early statesmen, than Daniel W^ebster's. 
His opinions of twenty years before were more serviceable to 
the speaker than those of a later date. Doubtless there 
were members of the legislative committee who regretted that 


so promising an advocate and interpreter of the Constitution 
as Phillips had shown himself should espouse a view 
of its powers and limitations that Avould be sure to affect 
unfavourably the trade and manufactures of New England 
by opposing the Southern scheme of annexing Texas. 

Detail work incidental to his new alliance soon began. 
In three months he was appointed one of a delegation 
from Boston to an anti-slavery convention in New York. In 
June he was reported as one of the "interested and animated 
debaters among those who usually attend our meetings." 
On July 4th he delivered the address of the day in Lynn; 
August 30th he was present at a convention in Worcester; on 
September 21st he attended a peace meeting in Marlborough 
Chapel, at which he opposed a resolution in favour of the 
doctrine and practice of non-resistance, which was becoming 
a disturbing question in abolition circles, and of which more 
would be heard later. At Worcester, in October, as chair- 
man of a committee, he reported resolutions "to vote for no 
man who was not opposed to slavery, and to keep out of all 
political party affiliations," another tendency which was to 
become a further cause of dissension in years to come. These 
were his principal appearances during the first complete year 
in abolition ranks. He had attended other meetings and 
served on committees and discussed measures of minor 
importance. It was of more consequence that he closed the 
year 1838 by forming a city anti-slavery society on Christ- 
mas Day in Boston, and was chosen its first president. For 
a recruit and a young man his record ought to have been 
eminently satisfactory to his co-workers. There is no 
evidence, however, that they were inclined to make a leader 
of him, or that he aspired to leadership. That position was 


occupied by Mr. Garrison, and the younger man would not 
have wished to disturb him. Moreover, there were other 
things to be done besides the speaking in which he excelled. 
Even his oratory had to be in the line of information and 
instruction as much as in eloquent persuasion. 

The year 1839 opened with an opportunity to the orator 
almost as favourable as that of his first appearance before 
a representative city audience. On January 24th the 
public opinion of Boston had advanced so far as to permit 
Faneuil Hall to be opered for a meeting in favour of abolish- 
ing slavery in the District of Columbia. This measure had 
been broached ten years before by Lundy, who urged petition- 
ing Congress — a suggestion that was taken up by Garri- 
son in Bennington, Vermont, three months later, resulting in a 
petition, bearing over twenty-three thousand names, being sent 
to Congress in January, 1829. It was received and referred 
to a committee, which brought in such an adverse report 
that Congress considered no legislation for abolishing slavery 
at the Capitol until the South seceded, thirty-two years after- 
ward. Southern men saw in this proposal to free slaves in 
the District of Columbia the beginning of emancipation 
throughout the South; but Northern people considered that 
they had rights enough in the District to warrant them in 
asking that a sectional evil be removed from national 
ground. Accordingly they kept on memorializing Con- 
gress for an entire generation. Still, it had taken Boston 
a third of this period to endorse the movement suffi- 
ciently to allow its Liberty Hall to be used for a discussion 
of the subject. At length the doors were unbarred and 
Wendell Phillips, one of a dozen speakers, offered the fol- 
lowing resolution: 


Resolved, That whether the members of Congress sustain 
freedom of speech in the Capitol or not — Massachusetts and 
Faneuil Hall are never gagged. 

It was a declaration for the present and the future rather 
than of what had been true during the last decade. Then he 

Two things we have certainly done; we have opened these 
doors, and we have pictured that man's features [John 
Quincy Adams's] on these walls, not to honour him as the 
ex-President of the United States, but as the man who alone 
has dared, on the floor of Congress, to maintain that slaves 
have a right to petition. It is fitting that we should meet here. 
We have united to finish what our fathers left unfinished 
when they declared that all men are born free and equal. 
. The patriot as well as the abolitionist is concerned 
in the struggle. When we first commenced the contest for 
the rights of the coloured man, we supposed that all our 
own rights were safe. The right of petition was a right 
which our fathers brought over with them. It is of 
English, not of American, origin. But we have learned 
another lesson : we have found that in order to establish 
the rights of the slave, we must first establish our own. 

He then touched upon other rights that were endangered : 

It is said that our efforts will dissolve the Union. . . . 
We may preserve the form of the Union, but it will be value- 
less, if bought at such a cost [of free speech]. There is 
no Union at this moment for any man in this hall that will 
sustain our own rights. He cannot set his foot in Virginia. 
. . . It was the boast of ancient Rome that she had 
thrown over her citizens the shield of her own powerful 
protection. No matter in what remote or barbarous land 
he might be found, as a Roman citizen he was sure of 
protection. Not so with Massachusetts; her citizens are 
seized in sister states and sold into slavery; a Senator of 


the United States threatens wholesale hanging, while her 
Webster is dumb and her Fletcher is gagged. 

Webster had held that the Constitution was a compact 
between the states, and that the North must accept it with 
the unfortunate permission of slavery and let it alone. 
Phillips continued: 

How did Massachusetts understand the compact ? That 
we were to be free under the Union as we were free before. 
If the thoughts and suppositions of the parties, and not 
their words, are to settle the nature of compacts, let Massa- 
chusetts speak, as well as Virginia. Let her tell the thoughts 
of her Heaths and her Sedgwicks, her Quincys, and her 
Otises, and other leaders of the revolution.^ 

Alluding to the meeting that had been held for the 
defence of slavery in Faneuil Hall in 1835: 

That meeting spoke for oppression, and it ought to 
have been silenced, as it was, in forgetfulness and dis- 
grace. They said they were seeking to prevent the 
dissolution of the Union. Love the Union as we may, 
and cherish it as we do, equally with the loudest of our 
opposers — ^we say, perish the Union if we must aban- 
don the slave. God has so bound us to the slave that 
we cannot abandon him. We are embarked in the 
same vessel, and must be saved or perish together. So 
let it be our firm determination this day that we will live 
or die with the slave. 

If there had been any uncertainty about Phillips's | 
position, it was dispelled by this speech. The Constitution 
and the Union had been the two pillars on which the 

^With regard to the opinions of eminent Virginians those of Washington are well stated 
in Lodge's " Life of Washington," pp. 105-108; of Henry in Tyler's " Life," p. 388; of Jeffer- 
son in his "Works," as indicated by indexes. 


prosperity and the existence of the Nation rested; and no 
state had furnished so eloquent an advocate of this axio- 
matic doctrine as Massachusetts. Whatever Calhoun had 
threatened or Clay deplored, Daniel Webster had stood 
by the Constitution, as a compact indivisible. Philan- 
thropic persons might be carried aAvay by their pity for 
bondmen, but to assail the entire Constitution for an unfor- 
tunate article, without which it would not have been adopted, 
and to split the Union in two because one section of it 
would not abolish an inherited Avrong, was demanding 
more than Boston would make haste to admit fifty years 
after the compact was made. It had been wise in per- 
mitting free speech. Abolition speeches, a dozen of them, 
had been made; but it is probable that more followers 
would have been secured by a refusal of the hall. Even 
Phillips lacked the spur of opposition, and apparently 
added nothing to the fame he had won. Possibly it 
was difficult to be enthusiastic under conditions re- 
vealed by a reporter's note — " When it is considered 
that the reporter was taking notes in a room without 
fire or seats, and that the thermometer was below zero, 
that his paper was full, and all the pencils he could 
borrow used up, he humbly asks to be forgiven for the 
remainder of the remarks" — made after the sixth 
speaker had finished. 

Phillips did not fail to discover that the success of the 
cause must be accomplished by hard work, with its petty 
details; by information, instruction, and exhortation from 
humble platforms and before audiences of dozens and 
twenties. If he "enlisted for the war" he would have to 
forget the distinction won in the first encounter, and descend 


to the commonplace task of recruiting, organizing, and 
drilling, with now and then an address at a general muster 
of officers. But this was what many a blue-and-gold 
hero had done in the beginning of his career; besides, it 
is demanded by any new movement, and old ones, too, 
for that matter. For this sort of work he found abundant 
opportunity as general agent of the Massachusetts society, 
an office to which he was appointed early in 1839. J His duties 
were similar to those of a state missionary — to organize 
stations wherever there were schoolhouses. Meetings were 
to be held in churches, halls, and vestries, when they could 
be had; committees appointed and lecturers assigned. To 
him it was a new and strange undertaking, not without 
its disagreeable features, as all itinerants know. The 
welcome offered by country villages was often doubtful 
and sometimes dangerous; the hospitality of the faithful 
was equally dangerous in respect to diet and lodging. 
Nevertheless, Phillips braved things that were perilous, 
and persons who were far from congenial, going up and 
down the state among the hundred towns where no 
societies had been established, and in which old preju- 
dices had to be overcome and a new sentiment created. 
The measure of his devotion to the cause he had es- 
poused is best estimated by the disagreeable conditions 
of such an undertaking to a man of his tastes and way 
of life. Jonathan Edwards among the Stockbridge 
Indians was not much more out of place. Even he had 
his own roof and his own table for refuge when night 
came — and the presidency of Princeton was his early 
reward, though brief. 

Phillips's reward — he received no pecuniary compensa- 


tion — was in the slow growth of opinion among what is 
often the flighty element in commimities — [)eople who are 
ready for any new 'ism; frothy folk who mark the farthest 
advance of some chance wave up the beach before the 
general tide arrives. They are the uncomfortable accom- 
paniment of far-sighted pioneers and reformers, light- 
headed enthusiasts who flank a stately procession and 
detract somewhat from its dignity, as do small boys on the 
sidewalks from the splendour of military reviews. More- 
over, those who recall Lowell's essay on Thoreau will 
remember that the beginning of the second third of the 
last century teemed with eccentricities of all sorts. In 
the revolt from a Puritanism that had served its purpose, 
there was a sense of freedom which cropped out in queer 
directions : 

Every form of intellectual and physical dyspepsia brought 
forth its gospel. Wild -eyed enthusiasts rushed from all 
sides, each eager to thrust under the bird that chalk egg 
from which a new and fairer creation was to be hatched 
in due time. Presartorial simplicity, plainness of speech, 
even swearing, disuse of money (unless earned by other 
people) — all had their evangelists. Communities were 
established where everything was to be common but common 
sense. All stood ready at a moment's notice to reform 
everything but themselves. 

It was this long-haired, hare-brained minority in commu- 
nities that was always in the front seats when any apostle 
of new thought appeared, and often to his discomfiture. 
They did not help any cause to which they gave their effu- 
sive assent. The wise speaker spoke over their heads, 
addressing more deliberate thinkers of retiring mien. 


This head-foremost element Lowell termed ''the whistle 
and trailing fuse of the shell." But having depicted the 
humorous side of that period of ferment, he adds : " But 
there was a very solid and serious kernel, full of the most 
deadly explosiveness. Thoughtful men divined it, but 
the generality suspected nothing." 

One by one these "thoughtful men" saw the force of 
what Phillips had to say about the entailed inconsistency 
between the Declaration of Independence and the Consti- 
tution; between a free republic and a slave-holding Union. 
They asked, " What can we do ? " He answered, " Band 
yourselves together, agitate, discuss, read, petition, write 
your representatives, and vote. By and by your ballots 
will settle every question and right every wrong." Separa- 
tion was the extremest measure and disunion the greatest 
disaster that had occurred to statesmen. And yet, was it 
pure rhetoric, or a statesman's prophetic vision, that made 
Webster speak in January, 1830, of "the broken and 
dishonoured fragments of a once glorious Union; of states 
dissevered, discordant, belligerent; of a land rent with 
civil feuds, or drenched it may be with fraternal blood " ? 
No such vision was possible to the pioneer abolitionists. 
Indeed, so contrary to the thought of civil strife was 
Garrison, that his non-resistant doctrine was one of the 
germs of later disagreement in the camp. Votes were 
the ultimate appeal; and he himself would not even vote. 
But he would always agitate; and agitation was the business 
of the general agent, Wendell Phillips. As a consequence, 
societies sprang up here and there in his circuit of the 
states. They were so many centres of information and 
proselyting. Their influence rippled out to other towns, 


and these joined in county associations, to be represented 
in state conventions. The man was beginning to fulfil 
his mission.* 

iThe assistance which the leaders received from many devoted associates, which both 
Garrison and Phillips were always forward to acknowledge, should not be passed over without 
mention. Their names and labours cannot be recounted at length within the limits of this 
sketch, but it is mere justice to say that they have been generously remembered in the "Life 
of W. L. Garrison," by his children. 



A LITTLE later Phillips's work was interrupted. Mrs. 
Phillips's health, never the best, declined so rapidly, 
that her puzzled physicians advised a European trip. It 
is possible that they thought a temporary absence from the 
arena of that early contest might be beneficial to the 
woman who was waiting and watching at home while her 
husband was working in the field. Neither of them was 
willing to desert the cause for a day; but the doctors, backed 
by the Phillips family — who hoped that he might be 
" cured of his fanaticism " — hastened the departure. 
The two delayed only long enough to attend the annual 
meeting of the New England Anti-slavery Society, held 
in Boston May 30, 1839. 

Extracts from a letter addressed to Mr. Phillips on his 
departure by the Massachusetts society indicate the esteem 
in which he and his work were held at the time and what, 
in a measure, he had accomplished. 

We feel that in a worldl}^ sense few have made larger sac- 
rifices upon the altar of humanity than yourself. Descended 
from a highly respectable lineage, connected with an ele- 
vated class in society, possessed of rare abilities which 
qualified you to reach and to fill high and respectable 



offices in the gift of the nation, in the springtime of manhood 
when the love of popular applause, rather than of doing 
good, generally inflames the youthful mind, you turned your 
back upon the blandishments of a seductive world, repu- 
diated all hope of political preferment and legal eminence, 
made yourself of no reputation for the Ijenefit of the perishing 
bondman, and became the associate of those who, for seeking 
the abolition of slavery by moral and religious instrumen- 
talities, are up to this hour subject to popular odium, to 
violent treatment, to personal insult. You buckled on the 
abolition armour when there were blows to take as well 
as to give, and from that hour to the present we have ever 
found you in the front rank of the conflict, reckless of all 
consequences growing out of a faithful adherence to princi- 
ple, and giving yourself as a freewill offering to the sacred 
cause of human liberty. In the most difficult and trying 
periods your vision has been clear, your faith unfaltering, 
your course unswerving from the strict line of duty. 
We shall regard your absence, as a real loss to the board, to 
the society we represent, and to the great anti-slavery organi- 
zation in the land — a loss which cannot be made up. 
As the general agent of the society for the last five months 
your labours have been arduous, indefatigable, and in a 
high degree successful. For those labours you have re- 
fused to accept even a slight compensation. 

We bid you an affectionate farewell. We trust that your 
amiable partner (whose generous donations to our cause 
have greatly helped to advance it) will be fully restored to 
health, and that you both will be safely returned to us 
through the mercy and goodness of God. 

To this personal commendation was added a summary 
of the growth and condition of abolitionism for the infor- 
mation of British friends. A brief abstract may serve to 
show its status at the close of the first decade of tlie 
organization : 


Ten years ago there was only one advocate of imme- 
diate emancipation ; now hundreds of thousands are in league 
for it. In 1829, not an anti-slavery society, of a genuine 
stamp, was in existence; in 1839 there are nearly two thou- 
sand. Then, scarcely a newspaper open to discussion; 
now multitudes, and pamphlets are issued by the million. 
No lectures then; now, they cannot be estimated, with con- 
ferences, associations, and societies. Seven hundred thousand 
persons have memorialized Congress. Ten times as many 
slaves find their way to Canada as in 1829. The revolution 
in public sentiment has even been more extraordinary. 

With such commendation and credentials Mr. and 
Mrs. Phillips sailed from New York in the packet Welling- 
ton, on June 6, 1839, and arrived in London in July, whence 
they proceeded by slow stages through Paris and Lyons 
to Italy, intending to pass the winter in Rome. In January 
they were writing home about a city which was familiar 
to fewer Americans in those days than in these — about 
the Palace of the Csesars and the Pantheon, Trajan's Pillar 
and the Colosseum, Titus's Baths and Nero's Golden 
House, St. Peter's and the Vatican. Amidst all this came 
the news of what interested them more — that a world's 
anti- slavery convention had been called to meet in 
London the following June, and that they had been 
appointed delegates with a number of other men "and 
women." The last two words look natural and inoffensive 
in the commission, but they contained an element of intestine 
commotion that produced immediate ferment, and came 
near bursting asunder the compact body which had just 
completed so triumphantly the tenth year of its existence. 
To be sure, little rumblings had been heard, and some 


dissent between brethren of Individualistic temperament; 
but the need of unity in the common cause had hushed 
discordant voices. Women worked with men, as in the 
days when their grandmothers loaded muskets for the 
grandfathers to fire. They also did a share of the talking, 
and letter- writing to the newspapers, and were enrolled 
with the men on committees and delegations. From 
1835, American women, aside from their natural sympa- 
thies for human suffering, had been inspired by the example 
of English women who had laboured for immediate 
emancipation of slaves in the West Indies.^ 

The efforts of the English, however, had resulted mainly in 
petitions to Parliament. In this country the "woman 
question " crept into the anti-slavery cause at the convention 
which formed the American Anti- slavery Society in 1833. 
It met with opposition and, in 1840, caused a division in 
anti-slavery ranks, resulting in the New Organization, 
which lived thirteen years, sadly crippling the general 

If there was a marked difference of opinion on the 
woman question in this country, there was practically none 
in England. When the mixed delegation reached London 
they found that the committee on credentials declined to 
admit women delegates to seats on the floor. They were 
welcome to the galleries. " It was not according to British 
custom," was the substance of the reply to American 
remonstrance. When the Convention assembled Phillips 
moved that the list of delegates be decided upon, and opened 
the discussion of female representation. The call, he urged, 

^They also had an example nearer home, not so well known, in the petitions by V'irginia 
women to the House of Delegates, after the Southampton insurrection of 1831, "to devise 
a method for the abolition of slavery." 


embraced the friends of abolition everywhere. The Massa- 
chusetts and American societies had admitted women to 
a share in their dehberations. Their delegates had, under 
the call, the right to a place in the t]!onvention. [Cries of 
"No," "No."] Professor Adam, of Harvard, declared 
that if women had no right there he had none, since his 
credentials were from the same society. Dr. John Bow- 
ring, afterward Sir John Bowring, M. P., endorsed these 

William H. Ashurst, a London lawyer, and George 
Thompson, who had lectured in America, and for fifteen 
years had been a labourer in the cause of emancipation 
in England, and here by invitation of the abolitionists, 
took sides with Mr. Phillips; but the other speakers voiced 
the general English conviction and custom. The fact 
that one of these entreated the Convention to be calm, 
suggests that it was getting excited over the question. 
Another delegate, Rev. Nathaniel Colver, asserted that a 
large portion of the American abolitionists thought as the 
English did on this subject. Rev. Elon Galusha, also a 
delegate from America, confirmed this statement. James 
G. Birney said that the question had led to a split in the 
American Society and to the forming of a new organization 
from which women would be excluded; and he ventured 
to add that those who favoured woman's rights advocated 
certain heresies about government. 

To this Phillips replied with a denial, and the stormy 
debate of several hours was closed by an overwhelming vote 
to exclude female delegates. Their chief advocate, Wendell 
Phillips, responded with good nature to George Thompson's 
"hope that we shall proceed with one heart and one mind," 


by saying, "All we asked was an expression of opinion, and, 
having obtained it, we shall now act with the utmost 
cordiality." It was said, however, that certain women of 
the company did not agree to his assurance that they would 
"sit with as much interest behind the bar as if the original 
proposition had been carried." It was to this meeting that 
Phillips went with the admonition from his beloved Ann: 
"No shilly-shallying, Wendell." ^ 

It cannot be denied that this World's Convention was 
disappointing. It turned out to be little more than a con- 
ference with, and under the control of, the British and 
Foreign Anti-slavery Society, Avhich distinguished itself 
mainly by emphasizing English, and, largely, American 
sentiment on the place of woman in public assemblies. A 
protest against its action, drawn up by Professor Adam, 
signed by several American delegates and presented to the 
Convention, was laid on the table and ordered not to be 
printed among the proceedings. In a meeting of the British 
society held directly after the adjournment of the Con- 
vention, the protesting Americans, Phillips among the rest, 
were not invited to speak. Instead, Birney and Stanton 
were assigned parts, and Remond, a coloured man, stepped 
forward of his own accord, and w^as repeatedly cheered by 
the audience. Garrison, who had arrived late at the Con- 
vention, took his seat in the gallery, which he could not be 
induced to leave, thus making his silent protest against the 
rejection of his female co-workers. On this account, he 
was not included among the Exeter Hall speakers. He would 
have been likely to say things on the rising issue not agreeable 

iln an undated letter to Colonel T. W. Higginson Phillips wrote: "The old world is not 
ready for our question (woman), but acts without thinking, generally, on the rule of admitting 
both sexes." Higgmson MS. 


to English ears. And it is safe to say, that before the vast 
London audience PhilHps might have had the second great 
opportunity of his Hfe; that he would have dropped the 
minor question and left it where the Convention had buried 
it in its British grave; and that on the greater issue of eman- 
cipation, on which English and American opinion was then 
and there a unit, he would have delivered an address that 
would have given him international fame. He must 
have foreseen the likelihood of such an opportunity, for 
which he would not be unprepared. If he also foresaw the 
loss of it through his championship of women who were help- 
ing in the abolition movement, this sacrifice must be added 
to the others he had made for the cause. But it could not 
but be doubly great in not being allowed to speak for it in the 
world's metropolis. No note of personal complaint or dis- 
appointment escaped him in his letter to the public at home 
about all that had taken place, which he closed by saying: 
*' Circumstances, we think, make it our duty to remain on 
this side the water another winter. . . . You will believe 
us when we say, we had rather be with you, and enjoy the 
privilege of sharing your labours." 

An invitation to address the first annual meeting of the 
British India Society in Freemason's Hall, July 6th, did not 
afford him an opportunity equal to the one of which he was 
deprived. The probable damage to cotton raising in the 
South from British competition in India was a theme only 
indirectly inspiring. This scheme might possibly make 
slave labour in America unprofitable through penny-a-day 
tillage by the Ganges, but there was a lurking suspicion that 
even free labour might be unrequited. The speaker did 
well with a topic which meant more for British prosperity. 


rivalling American, than for emancipation; but he must 
have felt hampered by the twofold nature of his subject. 
His best statement was: " Deliver America from the incubus 
of slavery, and her beautiful prairies will beat the banks of 
the Ganges; and Yankee skill in the fruitful valleys of the 
South will beat England and British India in any market in 
the world." But it was not the speech that he would have 
made in Exeter Hall. 

In a few weeks Mr. and Mrs. Phillips turned their faces 
toward the Continent again, notwithstanding the solicitations 
of English friends urging a longer stay. Medicinal springs 
in Bavaria were tried to little purpose, but the travellers lost 
nothing by the way in their leisurely progress from place to 
place through Germany, Switzerland, and Northern Italy. 
In October they were in Milan, and settled in Florence by 
November; thence to Leghorn for sea breezes in midwinter, 
and afterward to Naples and Rome in the spring, whence they 
journeyed to Paris in the early summer, and to London once 
more after almost a year's absence. What all this was 
to them can best be summarized by a letter to the Liberator 
of May 28, 1841, from which the following paragraphs are 
taken with necessary condensation: 

'T is a melancholy tour : and I do not understand how 
any one can return from it without being, in Coleridge's 
phrase, a sadder and a wiser man. Every reflecting mind 
must be struck, at home, with the many social evils which 
prevail around ; but the most careless eye cannot avoid seeing 
the painful contrasts which sadden one here at every step, 
— wealth and poverty, refinement and barbarism, cultiva- 
tion and debasement. . . . There is much to admire in 
the democratic method of Catholic worship. The beggar in 
rags, the peasant in his soiled and labour-stained homespun, 


kneel on the broad marble, side by side with fashion 
and rank, seemingly unconscious of any difference between 
himself and his fellow worshippers. . . . Italy, however, 
is truly the land '' where every prospect pleases, and only man 
is vile." All Europe is, indeed, the treasure house of rich 
memories. Mayence, the mother of printing and free trade, 
Amalfi, with her Pandects, the fountain of law — her 
compass of commerce — her Masaniello of popular freedom; 
Naples, with her galaxy of genius; Rome, whose name is at 
once a history and a description, will ever be the Meccas of 
the mind. But all the fascinations of art, all the luxuries of 
modern civilization are no balance to the misery which bad 
laws and bad religion alike entail on the bulk of the people. 
For even when she marries a matchless sky to the Bay of 
Naples, the impression is saddened by the presence of 
degraded and suffering humanity. 

I am glad to have had the opportunity of holding up 
the cause calmly before my mind, of being able to look back 
upon the course we have taken; and having done so, I am 
convinced more and more of the claims it has upon each 
one of us; and I hope to be permitted to return to my 
place, prepared to urge its claims with more earnestness, and 
to stand fearlessly by it without a doubt of its success. . . . 

When Paul's appeal unto Caesar brought him into this 
Bay of Naples he stood a prisoner of a despised race in the 
presence of the pomp and luxury of the Roman people. 
Even amid their ruins I could not but realize how strong the 
faith of the apostle to believe that the message he bore 
would triumph alike over their power and their religion. 
Struggling against priest and people, may we cherish a like 

After a fortnight's stay in London and the vicinity, Mr. and 
Mrs. Phillips celebrated the Fourth of July, 184-1, by embark- 
ing from Liverpool on a steamer — at that time regarded as 
hazardous as some other ways of observing the anniversary 


of our independence. In thirteen days, on July 17th, the 
Caledonia reached Boston, and, in the papers of the 23d the 
Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society's officers announced a 
social meeting to welcome Wendell and Anne G. Phillips 
and three others, two of whom, the Cha})mans, had recently 
returned from Hayti. This reception took place in Chardon 
Street Chapel in the afternoon of August 2d, at which (jarri- 
son, Phillips, and others, made speeches of welcome and reply. 

The principal object of their two years' stay abroad had 
not been accomplished; Mrs. Phillips's health was little 
improved. However, they brought home a store of memories, 
as only they can who have the antecedent knowledge around 
which treasures of history and art may cluster. To Mr. 
Phillips such a pilgrimage was what similar travels have 
been to many whose education has been begun by the texts 
and preliminary chapters of university courses, but finished 
only with the completed years of life. This second stage 
of it, taken as a matter of course by his English contem- 
poraries, was of more value to him, as it was to some of his 
associates here, by reason of the difficulty and rarity of the 
tour in his day. All lovers of Longfellow, for instance, will 
recall what he brought out of Europe for America, and gave 
back to the Old World with the interest which talent pays. 
And no one can read the speeches of Wendell Phillips from 
this date without observing their enrichment by spoils from 
the old empires beyond the sea. 

For the remainder of the summer the two stayed with 
Madam Phillips in her commodious house at Nahant. The 
wife wrote to an English friend: 

The village of Nahant is about a mile from our house; 
there Dame Fashion struts about three months in summer. 


but we have the blessing of being out of her way, doing as 
we please. . . . We are considered as heretics and 
almost infidels, but we pursue the even tenor of our way 
undisturbed. Sometimes Wendell goes off abolitionizing 
for two or three days, but I remain on the ground. 

In the autumn they took possession of a small house, No. 
26 Essex Street, which Mrs. Phillips had inherited from her 
father. It was in a neighbourhood to which the names of 
Garrison, Jackson, Chapman, and Loring gave an abolition 
complexion ; and in the social ostracism of the company such 
association was congenial, or at least all that was left them. 
In this new domicile Phillips found opportunities to use 
his mechanical skill, from planing a door to sawing soap- 
stone; but by Thanksgiving Day he was at leisure to describe 
the feast to an English woman, historically, religiously, and 
gastronomically : 

To worship where their fathers knelt, and gather sons and 
grandsons under the old roof -tree, to — shall I break the pic- 
ture ? — cram as much turkey and plum pudding as possible; 
a sort of compromise by Puritan love of good eating for deny- 
ing itself that " wicked papistrie," Christmas. . . . Ann 
gets tired out every day trying to oversee " keeping house," 
as we Americans call it when two persons take more rooms 
than they need, buy double the things they want, hire 
two or three others, just, for all the world, for the whole 
five to devote themselves to keeping the house in order. 
I long for the time when there '11 be no need of sweeping 
and dusting, and when eating will be forgotten. 

Of herself the wife writes: 

She laughs considerably, continues In health In the 
same naughty way, strolls out a few steps occasionally, 
calling it a walk; the rest of the time, from bed to sofa, 
from sofa to rocking-chair, reads the Standard and Liberator^ 


sees no company and makes no calls, looks forward to 
spring and birds. . . . Wendell speaks whenever he 
can leave me, and for his sake I sometimes wish I were 
myself again, but I dare say it is all right as it is. AYhat 
anti-slavery news I get, I get second hand. 

This might be taken as the daily record of a life which 
was to be prolonged through forty-four weary years more 
of increasing invalidism, outlasting the life of her husband 
by two years and two months. Yet, in suffering and en- 
forced seclusion, her joyous disposition, unfailing spirits, 
and keen sense of humour kept the house from being 
gloomy to her constant companion and the few friends 
who could be admitted to its needful privacy.' Neither 
was there any diminution of interest in the cause, nor of 

^Without children, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips adopted, in 1851, Phcebe Garnaut, only 
child of an estimable friend of Welsh birth who had married a native of France and come 
to Boston, where her husband soon died. From her thirteenth year the girl "was a bright 
and loving companion to Mrs. Phillips until her marriage to Mr. George H. Smalley took 
her to another city and finally to London." Mr. Phillips's namesakes, Wendell Phillips 
Garrison and Wendell Phillips Blagden, were the constant recipients of affectionate remem- 
brance, several expressions of which in unpublished letters reveal the fondness of both Mr. 
and INIxs. Phillips for children, in the latter amounting to a devotion to her little nephew 
that was almost pathetic. And in the letters which the husband wrote "for Ann and Wendell 
Phillips" the charm and tenderness of his affections are revealed. In a proportionate degree 
this was true of his regard for any who had been or were his friends. One of the letters 
on the occasion of the baptism of a grandnephew and namesake, Wendell Phillips Blagden, 
must stand alone as an example of many: 

"My dear Niece: How near did you ever come to scolding Sam? I 've no doubt he has 
sometimes richly deserved it, for that 's a way our family has. / have come as near getting 
all I deserved of late, as I ever did, for not writing you. But I could n't. Did you ever hear 
of the swearing Worcester County man, famous for the poetry, eloquence, and pathos of his 
oaths? Well, one day the folks saw that the tailboard of his cart had fallen down as he drove 
up hill and all his potatoes were dropping out. They ran along in the fields, behind the 
wall, to hear how he 'd swear when he first saw his mishap. Finally, glancing back, he saw 
the vegetables scattered along the hillside behind him. Alighting, his arms dropped nerve- 
lessly by his side as he said quietly: 'I feel wholly unequal to the occasion!' 

" Now, that 's just my case. You see, Ann was so elated, overcome, and delighted with 
'her baby,' as she called him — found out such eulogies on his beauty, manliness, weight, 
and general perfection, showed him to all comers and rated their sense according to the 
extent to which they went crazy over the photo — that I gave up being secretary to the family. 
But she won't let me off — insists that I shall expose myself in the vain attempt to daguerreo- 
type her ecstasy. 

"Seriously, I have not seen her so charmed and thoroughly delighted for years as when 
she opened the box and saw the photograph. I thank you most sincerely for many happy 
hours in that weary room where she lies in patient helplessness. She never parts with the 


material aid which her competence enabled her to render; 
nor was ever less the inspiration she afforded the knightly 
man who, with solicitude for her hourly comfort, fared 
forth into a world of strife to return often from scenes of 
insult and peril, with hopeful answer to the old, old question, 
" Watchman, what of the night ? " — " The morning 

picture, keeps it near her and expatiates to everybody. I cannot say that I blame her very 
much (I) or that she has not good cause. He is a noble fellow in spite of his name, and I 
don't believe that even that will ever keep him down. 

"I haven't been out of the house but once of an evening for months, but I believe if 
Ann had not been so wholly helpless that she would have insisted on my coming on to the 
christening. Indeed, she began to debate how it could be done. But assuming for once(!!) 
a pretence of authority, T crushed that madness out before it came to a head. 

"With all serious and hearty earnestness we congratulate you on your beautiful boy and 
wish him all the good, sweet things, all the grand, useful purposes and powers that will fulfil 
your aspirations. God bless him life-long. 

" Love to you and yours 

"Ann and Wendell Phillips." 
— BlagdenMSS. 



THE pursuits which had been interrupted by two years' 
absence in Europe were now taken up once more. 
To a young and active man with a Hberal education and 
recognized abihties, a mere existence, even with a com- 
petence, could not be satisfying. His legal profession 
counted for little with this one, on account of certain scruples 
about practising under a government whose Constitution 
contained articles against which he protested. For author- 
ship he believed that he had no aptitude; the use of a pen 
was distasteful to him, as his letters indicate, and even in the 
preparation of addresses he usually discarded it. 

In mental processes of composition, whether in blocking 
out general lines of discourse, or in the arrangement of 
paragraphs and the construction of sentences so carefully 
that they might seem, like Everett's, to have been written 
and memorized — for this head-work he had no superior. 
Nor was it a matter of slow and painful preparation altogether 
and always. No man was readier with a quick reply to 
an unexpected interruption to the course of his argument. 
Rejoinders had the same unhesitating flow of thoughts 
and pertinent words as if they had been foreseen in the 
privacy of his study. Not often a prisoner there for more 


than a day or two, not bound to desk and inkstand, he 
acquired the habit of composing whenever and wherever 
his mind was in a working mood. This was as hkely 
to be on the platform as in the quiet of his home. His 
thinking was clear, therefore his statements were plain; 
his sense of proportion and emphasis keen, therefore he 
wasted nothing on irrelevancies, and gave the grace of 
symmetry and the force of pungency to his discourse. 
For such a mind and such a man, there was, in his time, 
an admirable arena — the lecture platform. 

It was an outgrowth of the lyceum or debating society, 
as this, in turn, was the product of the disputatious, in- 
formation loving, and literary disposition of a people who 
had practised freedom of speech and of thought, within 
certain limits, for two hundred years. There was hardly 
a village schoolhouse in New England that had not its 
winter evening debates; and in the larger towns and cities 
these were diversified by lectures from such celebrities as 
could be afforded. In cities, courses of lectures were often 
maintained apart from debating clubs, or at least from 
their performances. 

As early as 1830 the lyceum lecture was fairly started 
as an educational factor among a people thirsting for 
knowledge, and also relishing its presentation in oral and 
literary form. This appetite had been inherited from 
forefathers whose chief intellectual entertainment had been 
Sunday sermons two or three hours long, and Thursday 
lectures in which a more secular complexion was admissible, 
especially in times of political excitement. To a large 
extent these pulpit performances took the place of present- 
day books and newspapers — Sunday papers included. 


So, in the thirties and forties, did the popular lecture. On 
the topic of the evening the attentive listener absorbed 
knowledge which the speaker had been storing up during 
weeks of study or years of experience. Sometimes the 
hearer got an uplift through a moral or eloquent appeal, 
especially if the lecturer had a purpose, a cause, or a reform 
to promote. Such speakers, if they had graces of 
oratory, found many opportunities to promulgate views 
which otherwise might have gone begging for a hearing. 
Doubtful doctrines escaped from sources regarded with 
apprehension by staid communities who were proof against 
heresy but not against oratory. If eloquence once got the 
better of orthodoxy it was apt to be called back for another 
hearing winter after winter. Emerson was particularly 
liable to recall, as the elders were not always sure that 
they understood exactly what he said, and the surer young- 
sters were always willing to risk hearing the same again. 
First and last, for about forty years, the lyceum lecture 
was a great and entertaining educator. Successive lectures 
were anticipated with eager expectation and listened to 
with as much pleasure and more profit than the modern 
play. The best speakers of the generation were in constant 
demand, and every man who had a gift for popular exposi- 
tion found a place on the lists of agencies known as "lecture 
bureaus," with which associations and committees arranged 
for intellectual supplies according to their pecuniary ability. 
Among the greater lights and earlier was Edward Everett, 
who could not be had for ordinary occasions, but whose 
eulogy on Washington may be regarded as preeminently 
the first in rank of its class and the most widely heard. 
It was welcome all over the land, with its purpose of making 


Mount Vernon a national possession, to which it contributed 
over fifty-three thousand dollars, two thousand more being 
added by the author of it. Rufus Choate illustrated 
American history by addresses somewhat above the taste 
of the average audience, but not above the intelligence 
of the best. Horace Mann delivered a volume of lectures 
on Education, and Ralph Waldo Emerson two volumes 
on a variety of themes, which appeared in print afterward 
as essays. Rev. Drs. Bellows and Chapin, clergymen of 
New York, were speakers who carried audiences along 
the lines of their topics almost by bodily force, as also did 
Henry Ward Beecher by an immense magnetic power, coupled 
with humour and a sympathetic delivery. George William 
Curtis's literary addresses, and particularly those on the 
relations of education to citizenship, were always of the 
highest class, drifting into advocacy of universal freedom 
as the war years approached . All together these distinguished 
men, and others almost their equals, with some specialists 
in science, art, and travels, made the lecture period one of 
great value and renown. Like the oratorical age, of which 
it was both the product and in part the creator, it passed 
away with the reactions that followed the Civil War, having 
served a purpose which neither pulpit nor press could 
accomplish with their then limited sectarian, or party, 

Upon this instruction from the platform Phillips had 
entered as early as 1836; at first, with subjects from the 
domain of natural science, according to his intellectual 
bent. In 1838, he produced a lecture on the "Lost Arts," 
which was destined to be delivered hundreds of times; 
probably the most popular discourse of any kind that 


belonged to the lecture age; of which he said in the opening 
paragraph: "This lecture belongs to that first phase of 
the lyceum system, before it undertook to meddle with 
political duties or dangerous ethics; when it was a merely 
academic institution, trying to win busy men back to books, 
teaching a little science, or repeating some tale of foreign 
travel, or painting some great representative character, 
the symbol of his age. I think I can claim a purpose 
beyond a moment's amusement in this glance at early 
civilization." His purpose in this lecture was to show 
that the customary mood of self-veneration and conceit 
which impels us to take off our hats to ourselves — like 
Coleridge's German whenever he spoke of himself — 
may be rebuked by observing some things in which the 
ancients surpassed us. 

His enumeration of these and comments upon them under 
the heads of glass, medals, colours, fabrics, masonry, and 
the mechanical devices employed in pyramid building 
and obelisk raising was doubtless interesting to the people 
of a former generation and limited cultivation; but a large 
share of the lecture's attractiveness must be attributed to 
the colloquial ease and dignified grace with which the 
speaker discoursed of seven wonders that perished with 
antiquity. There was no opportunity for reformatory 
eloquence, although he did introduce allusions to the "irre- 
pressible Negro" and the American politician, comparing 
the latter to the Damascus blade "which could be put into 
a scabbard like a corkscrew, and bent every way without 
breaking." Whatever may be the value of this lecture 
as reading matter — and it is still not without interest — 
the persistent demand for it through many years determines 


its worth as a spoken address, as delivered by its author 
to the hundreds of thousands who heard it. It was never 
written out by him, but by a reporter, and presented to 
him by friends with the words: "We have not done it for 
your sake, Mr. Philhps, but for posterity." Such was the 
contemporary estimate; and such, it may be remarked, 
is often the difference between the effect produced by the 
hving voice and magnetic presence, and that by cold type 
and the lapse of years. It is possible that the lecturer 
himself often wondered why it was so popular. Since 
it was, however, he had his own use for it in the direction 
of a larger purpose. He made it an advance agent in 
doubtful territory, which might secure for him a second 
invitation to speak, when it would be safer to introduce 
something on his chosen theme of abolition. 

An instance of this preparatory method occurred the 
winter after his return from abroad, when he was invited 
to deliver a lecture in old Concord on "Street Life in Europe." 
He kept fairly well to his subject, giving slavery a few 
thrusts by the way. The effect of them was to obtain for 
him an invitation to speak on slavery the next winter. But 
a respectable minority, as the time approached, pronouncing 
his allusions, "vile, pernicious, and abominable," urged 
that he be asked to speak on some other subject. The 
majority voted otherwise, and, encouraged by the ruling 
sentiment, he was particularly severe upon Church and 
State. At the next meeting of the lyceum his lecture and 
himself were the subjects of denunciation by two of the 
village squires, who called him an "audacious stripling" 
who had proclaimed "monstrous doctrines"; and while 
they complimented his eloquence they warned the young 


against its insidious charm. The orator had been notified 
by his friends of what was hkely to happen at this meeting, 
and as it was an open one he would have an opportunity 
to reply. Asking permission to do so, he said, in part: 

I agree with the last speaker that this is a serious subject; 
had it been otherwise I should not devote my life to it. 
*' Stripling" as I am, I but echo the voice of the ages, of 
our venerable forefathers, of statesmen, poets, philosophers. 
The gentleman has painted the dangers to life, liberty, 
and happiness that would be the consequence of doing 
right. These dangers now exist by law at the South. 
Liberty naay be bought at too dear a price; if I cannot 
have it except by sin, I reject it. But I cannot so blaspheme 
God as to doubt my safety in obeying Him. The sanctions 
of English law are with me; but if I tread the dust of law 
beneath my feet and enter the Holy of Holies, what do I 
find written there ? "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master 
the servant who is escaped to thee; he shall dwell with you, 
even among you." I throw myself, then, on the bosom 
of Infinite Wisdom. Even the heathen will tell you, "Let 
justice be done though the heavens fall"; and the old re- 
former answered when warned against the danger of going 
to Rome, "It is not necessary that I should live; it is necessary 
that I go to Rome." But now our pulpits are silent — 
who ever heard this subject presented until it was done 
by silly women and striplings ? The first speaker accused 
me of ambition; let me tell him that ambition chooses a 
smoother path to fame. And to you, my young friends, 
who have been cautioned against exciting topics and advised 
to fold your hands in selfish ease, I would say. Not so; 
throw yourselves upon the altar of some noble cause. To 
rise in the morning only to eat and drink, and gather gold 
— that is a life not worth living. Enthusiasm is the life 
of the soul. 

This incident may be taken as an example of the channels 


which were open, or sometimes closed, to the agitator, 
and of the methods he employed to disseminate doctrines 
whose character is indicated by the above remarks. His 
spirit is also exhibited by them — fearless, confident of 
the ground on which he stood, and of the ultimate verdict 
of the North when it should come to its better sense, and 
get the better of its commercial greed. 

He embraced the lecture system as giving him an oppor- 
tunity to reach the people of almost every town and city 
in his own and other states year after year for nearly an 
entire generation before the main purpose of his life was 
accomplished — from 1836 to 1866, and for eighteen years 
more, during which he advocated other causes. When it 
is remembered that the audience in each place was made 
up of persons from all the church congregations, and of 
many who belonged to none; of citizens from all political 
parties or no party; of old and young, male and female, it 
will be admitted that no preacher or association of preachers, 
no newspaper of a single class, nor all of a single party or 
creed together, could reach so many thinking people the 
country over as the lyceum lecturer. He might not have 
the general assent to his propositions that the preacher 
expects; nor the unquestioning absorption of his statements 
that the editor's type favours; but if he had the art of per- 
suasion, itself resting on personal conviction, he would 
have the opportunity on many platforms of making ten 
converts where the denomination's pulpit and the party's 
newspaper made one. These, in the main, confirmed 
and fortified the beliefs of the faithful; the other reached 
those who strayed for an hour from their customary haunts 
and were listening to unfamiliar ideas and views of which 


they had never heard, unless as heretical. If the lecturer 
had the magician's skill, as Phillips had, to make black 
white, and convince in the face of rooted prejudice, at least 
while he was speaking, the chances of unsettling old opinions 
were multiplied. He might not eradicate them at once; 
but the roots were loosened and the soil that had been 
settling around them for generations was shaken as if in 
the line of an earthquake. Sometiuics men felt that the 
everlasting foundations of things, especially of the Nation, 
were being broken up, or at least assailed, and they cried 
out at the sacrilege and hurled epithets at the speaker. 

Enough has been seen of the trend of Phillips's opinions 
and their expression to indicate the use he would soon 
make of the platform. More and more the anti-slavery 
cause was engaging his attention, and any favourable occa- 
sion was likely to call him out. 

The first of these after his return from Europe was afforded 
by the reception of an appeal from seventy thousand Irish- 
men to their countrymen in America, urging them to identify 
themselves with the abolition movement. ' Aside from 
containing the names of Father Mathew and Daniel O'Con- 
nell, the chief distinction of the memorial was its size. Even 
this could not have surprised one who knows how easy it 
is to obtain signatures recommending philanthropy three 
thousand miles away. The Irish ignorance of conditions 
surrounding their countrymen in America was more aston- 
ishing. Perhaps they could not understand in Ireland 
what it was to be a Democrat here in the 'forties ; and how 
the party stood on the slavery question. But, whoever 
set the snowball rolling, the voluminous petition was here, 
and the abolitionists determined to make the most of it 


at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Society in Faneuil 
Hall on January 28, 1842. Two or three speakers discovered 
enough Irish blood in their descent to commend them to 
as many of their five thousand cousins in the city as hap- 
pened to be present; but Wendell Phillips could not fall 
back upon a Celtic pedigree. Acquaintance with O'Connell 
and admiration for him as the leading agitator of the day 
was the conciliatory note of his address, together with 
reference to Emmet and Curran and Grattan. Referring to 
the devoted earnestness and untiring zeal with which Ireland 
had carried on for so many years the struggle for her freedom, 
and to the men who lost no faith in the cause, he spoke 
of the generous isle and the valour of its heroes and states- 
men, of the catholicity of a church which allowed men 
of colour in St. Peter's at Rome and beneath the portals 
of the Propaganda College, with none to sneer at their 
complexion or repulse them from society, and cited the 
protests of a long line of Popes denouncing the sin of making 
merchandise of men. He spoke of Ireland as a land of 
agitators from whom we may learn a lesson in the battle 
for human rights, and of the welcome that American 
abolitionists received in Dublin (of which O'Connell was 
then mayor). His appeal was to the love of liberty which 
every Irishman brings to this country, exhorting him to 
cast no vote without asking if the hand to which he intrusts 
political power will use it for the slave. 

Will you ever return to his master the slave who once 
sets foot on the soil of Massachusetts ? [No, no !] Will 
you ever raise to office or power the man who will not pledge 
his utmost effort against slavery.^ [No, no, no!] Then 
may we not hope still for freedom ? Thanks to those noble 


men who battle in her cause the world over. The ocean 
of their philanthropy knows no shore; humanity knows no 
country; and I am proud here in Faneuil Hall, fit place to 
receive their message, to learn of O'Connell's fidelity to 
freedom and of Father Mathew's love for the real interests 
of man. 

The entire speech was an early manifestation of 
Phillips's breadth of sympathy, notwithstanding an intensity 
of feeling which sometimes incurred the charge of narrow- 
ness. To be sure, his immediate concern was to win Irish 
sympathy and cooperation; but he asked nothing for bond- 
men here that he was not willing to give to the oppressed 
in Ireland. This feature of his philanthropy, which appeared 
at the outset of his struggle for human rights, reappeared 
from time to time in his advocacy of other causes than that 
of the slave. 

O'Connell made handsome return by pronouncing this 
speech "the most classic short one in the English language," 
and added, "I resign the crown. This young American 
is without an equal." But his immigrant countrymen 
here, after roaring their applause, went out and read what 
their newspaper had to say on the other side of the question 
and accepted the counsel of a New York archbishop. 
Thenceforward, as before, they voted the straight Demo- 
cratic ticket, and hated their black labour competitors 
for the next twenty years. After the war broke out they 
made amends. 

So far, Phillips's advocacy of the anti -slavery cause had 
contemplated prior and fundamental issues, as the right 
of petition, a free press, and unhampered discussion. A more 
direct defence was now to be made, marking his entrance 


upon a hand to hand strife with the slave power, to be 
continued until that power fell. 

George Latimer, a fugitive slave from Norfolk, Virginia, 
had been pursued to Boston and arrested on a nominal 
charge of theft. As a runaway, his case was referred to 
the United States Circuit Court, coming under Article IV., 
Section 2, of the Constitution: "No person held to service 
or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into 
another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation 
therein, be discharged from such service or labour; but shall 
be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service 
or labour may be due."^ 

There was no reason to suppose that Judge Story could 
reverse the plain intent of this article as agreed to by the 
several states and by the decisions of the Federal Court 
in those states. But there was a growing opinion among 
the citizens of Northern states that this part of the compact 
was a violation of the rights of man, and of a higher law 
of humanity which had been gradually coming into recog- 
nition century by century since the beginning of the Christian 
Era. An open meeting of citizens was called, for the 
expression of their opinion on the subject of returning 
fugitive slaves, and, incidentally, of the agreement by 
which it must inevitably be done. Faneuil Hall was the 
place; the time, nine o'clock Sunday evening, October 30th. 
The abolition leaders took charge of the meeting and 
appointed speakers; but such a rabble took possession of 
the hall as made the turbulent crowd at the Lovejoy 
meeting five years before to be remembered as a Sunday- 

*For a discussion of the introduction of this article into the Constitution see G. T. Curtis's 
"History of the Constitution," ii., 449. 


school in comparison. It did not look as if Boston was 
being rapidly converted to abolition doctrine and practice. 
Speeches were delivered in sections and fragments, as the 
speakers could get a chance between hisses and howls, 
cat-calls and cursing. Respectable citizens had attended 
church that day; it was too late for the usual evening meetings, 
and the godless element who had been under customary 
Sabbath restraint were having a meeting after their own 
hearts to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land 
with respect to slaves and slaveholders. Taken together, 
it could not have been a fair representation of the average 
sentiment of the city, unless that upon the platform be 
regarded as a counterweight. But the intelligence, humanity, 
and justice displayed there under difficulties got a better 
and wider hearing next day in the press, whose tone was, 
that whatever might be the opinions of speakers who could 
obtain Faneuil Hall, they had a right to be heard without 
interference from a mob of which the city ought to be 

So much has been said of the character of this riotous 
assembly as prefatory to a speech by Mr. Phillips, which 
has not always been considered in connection with these 
exasperating provocations. 

Fellow-citizens, I will ask your attention but a single 
moment. I wish only to bear testimony in favour of liberty. 
[Uproar.] No generous man will try to drown my voice 
when I plead the cause of one not allowed to speak for 
himself. . . . The swarming thousands before me, 
the creators of public sentiment, bolt and bar that poor 
man's dungeon to-night. [Great uproar.] I know I am 
addressing the white slaves of the North. [Hisses and 
shouts.] Shake your chains; you have not the courage to 




break them. This old hall cannot rock as it used to with 
the spirit of liberty. It is chained down by the iron links 
of the United States Constitution. [Hisses and uproar.] 
Many of you, I doubt not, regret to have this man given up, 
but you cannot help it. There stands the bloody clause in 
the Constitution — you cannot fret the seal off the bond. 
The fault is in allowing such a Constitution to live an hour. 
. . . When I look upon these crowded thousands, and 
see them trample on their consciences and the rights of their 
fellow-men at the bidding of a piece of parchment, I say 
my curse be on the Constitution of these United States. 
[Hisses and shouts.] . . . Shall our taxes pay men 
to hunt slaves ? Shall we build jails to keep them ? [Up- 
roar.] If a Southerner comes here to get his lost horse, 
he must prove title before a jury of twelve men. If he 
comes to catch a slave, he need only to prove title to any 
Justice of the Peace whom he can make his accomplice. I 
record here my testimony against this pollution of our native 
city. The man in the free state who helps hunt slaves is 
no better than a bloodhound. The attorney is baser still. 
But any judge who should grant a certificate would be the 
basest of all: 

"And in the lowest deep, a lower deep. 
Still threatening to devour him, opens wide." 

Of course, many were shocked at this outburst against 
the Constitution — a sacred compact, and the embodiment 
of the Nation's law. To denounce it on account of a sentence 
or two about property in slaves, and its protection, was to 
make a small part greater than the whole. Moreover, to 
let the discussion of it alone was a most necessary condition 
of commercial prosperity. To malign the precious document 
was to revile the wisdom of statesmen and patriots, and to 
pronounce a curse upon it was deemed next to cursing 
Deity. Apparently, to Mr. Phillips and his co-workers, 


the Constitution was a compromise with a part of the 
Nation, which had determined to maintain and perpetuate 
a great wrong, at first generally admitted to be an evil 
element in the body politic, but later a profitable factor in 
trade. Yet one who should disturb the foundations of gov- ■" 
ernment and commerce for a sentiment about an institution 
which had its beneficent features — such a one was a . 
fanatic, if not a traitor, in the eyes of the mixed multitude.^ 

It was remarkable, therefore, that anything came of this 
turbulent meeting beyond rescuing the fugitive Latimer 
by the payment of four hundred dollars to his pursuer. 
But this precedent was not likely to discourage other slave- 
holders from similar pursuit, besides making Boston a 
market for light-footed slaves. Consequently a "convention 
of freemen" was held November 19th, and a petition drawn 
up, praying the Legislature to "forbid all persons holding 
office under the laws of the State of Massachusetts from 
aiding in the arrest or detention of persons claimed as fugi- 
tives from slavery; to forbid the use of jails or other public 
property, for their detention; and to prepare amendments 
to the Federal Constitution that should forever separate 
the people of the state from all connection with slavery." 
This Personal Liberty Act was passed March 24, 1843.^ 

In the speech which he made it is to be observed that 
Phillips's indignation at the slave hunt under the Constitu- 
tion was intensified by the mob's noisy defence of the arrest. 
With the Love joy meeting in mind, he must have felt that 

i"The Constitution, a bundle of compromises, all needful." — Roosevelt's "Life of Gouver- 
neur Morris," p. 122. 

2 Later, the Legislature passed resolutions addressed to Congress recommending an amend- 
ment to the Constitution whereby the "three-fifths representation for slaves" should be abol- 
ished. These resolves were presented to Congress by John Quincy Adams, December 21, 


his commanding power over an audience was to be severely 
tested. Defeat threatened him for a while in this second 
encounter with the masses. He won by interrupted onsets 
/• and sheer persistence. Another feature also of this speech 
is noteworthy — that he took no pains to conciliate the 
crowd. Instead, he employed a method of attack which 
became common with him, namely, to launch his unwel- 
come theses in their most repellent terms at the outset, 
stirring up the ire of opponents and making the situation 
/ as difficult for himself as possible. This, then, became the 
joy of battle, and to convince and silence his adversaries 
all the greater triumph. In time, those who were familiar 
with his tactics learned to accept his startling assertions 
unmoved, and to wait for the proofs, real or apparent, 
which were sure to follow. 

Once more: it was no ordinary feat of oratory to stem the 
tumultuous tide that surged up from the rabble. Great 
praise is often accorded speakers when a sympathetic 
audience listens breathlessly to eloquent periods, as did 
the distinguished assembly to Webster's second reply to 
Hayne, or the hushed multitude to Lincoln's encomium 
of the slain at Gettysburg. But there was no sympathy 
or interest or reverence in the senseless crowd in Faneuil 
Hall that Sunday night when a young orator of thirty- 
three first maddened and then held in check a many-headed 
monster called an audience by courtesy. He met in the 
early years of his career the worst trial and severest test 
of a speaker. If he had shown the white feather or con- 
ducted a graceful retreat, he would have betrayed the 
secret of their possible success to every mob that should 
follow. It was a critical juncture, a thousand against one. 


For the one to prove himself superior to the thousand was 
not only a personal triumph, but a victory for the only 
art by which one man can baffle a raging multitude. 

The sharpness of Phillips's invective set people to 
thinking, as it certainly did to talking. A new view of 
the Compact had been published, and one and another 
inquired if there was a particle of truth or reason in it. 
It took many years to convince the majority that there was. 
The last clause in the above resolutions, to ''forever separate > 
the people of the state from all connection with slavery, '* may 
be regarded as the first note of dissolving the union between 
free and slave states that had been formulated in the North. ^ 
Disunion had been in the hearts of one extremist and 
another, in the North as well as in the South; it had been 
spoken by one neighbour to another, advocated in the 
freedom of anti-slavery gatherings, and printed among other 
extravagances in the journals of the coterie. At last it had 
appeared in the scarcely less responsible utterance of a 
small public meeting, attempting to formulate the resulting 
opinion of the Latimer incident. It was a stake driven to 
show how far extreme sentiment had moved forward on 
the flood of excitement. The general public regarded it 
with abhorrence, and as the wild dream of malcontents, 
revolutionists, and fanatics. 

But what was the disunion they advocated, and how ' 
did it differ from that which was afterward effected by the 
South ? Holding with the fathers of the Nation that slavery 
was an evil to be extirpated and a wrong inconsistent with 

1 Unless the conditional prophecy of the ninth resolution of the "Irish Address" meeting, ^ 
drawn up by Garrison, be taken as precedent: "If the South be madly bent upon perpetuating 
her atrocious slave system ... the American Union v/ill bo dissolved in form as it is 
now in fact." — "William Lloyd Garrison," Garrisons, iii., 46. 


the character of a repubUc, they saw but two ways of dealing 
with it — by amending the pro-slavery provisions of the 
Constitution, as provided by the instrument itself; or, in 
case this should be impossible through Southern refusal, 
by withdrawal of the North in order to have no further 
responsibility and complicity in slaveholding. The latter 
was the only possible escape from a share in wrong-doing. 
Moreover, so long as union between the two sections stood, 
the North was powerless to touch slavery where it existed; 
nor would it ever have been abolished had not the South, 
by seceding, dissolved the bond and made it possible for 
Lincoln to reach slavery in territory abandoned by states, 
and Congress to make emancipation universal. But even 
if the North had withdrawn first, it would have had the 
justification of its purpose to clear itself from sharing in a 
crime against humanity; while the South seceded through 
fear of losing its share in the immediate advantages and 
profits of that wrong. In the final event the North avoided 
separation, and the abolitionists saw their desire accom- 
plished in an unlooked-for way. 

Meantime, disunion feeling was continually breaking 
out in the South over large areas. It was Southern policy 
to keep the Constitution inviolate, since it was the segis of 
their interests. So far, they seem to have had the reason- 
able side of the conflict. If this Compact was sacred and 
practically unalterable, as it had come to be considered in 
distinction from the early views of its framers,^ its defenders 
were loyal to the Union. But if a clause in it of doubtful 
justice and humanity should be attacked and repealed, 

lAs late as 1812, separation was a question of expediency merely. — Lodge's "Life of 
Webster," pp. 176, 177. 


they would go for disunion. Moreover, if the Constitution 
and the later enactments under it could not be made to 
cover new territory for the extension of slavery, the threat 
of disunion was immediately heard. "Texas or Disunion" 
was a South Carolina toast on the Fourth of July, 1844, 
and a convention of slaveholding states was demanded 
by South CaroHna and Alabama in order " to count the cost 
and value of the Federal Union." Their loyalty to the 
Union was conditioned upon the integrity of an elastic 
Constitution which should be made to cover a growing evil, 
whose germ the makers of that Constitution deplored, 
but admitted in 1789, for the sake of unity. At this time, 
the points of agreement between the North and South 
were, among the producing and trading classes, that slavery 
was commercially profitable; among conscientious and 
reflecting people, that it was unjust, inhuman, and corrupting; 
among extremists in both sections, that it was hastening 
separation and dissolution of the Union. This last radical 
view was terrifying to conservatives, who were beginning 
to accept the possibility of such disaster. Schemes were 
invented to save the Union with slavery and without it; 
but those without it were stifled on presentation to Congress. 
Let alone, the Constitution and Union and slavery would 
save themselves; but, by 1843, on the introduction of the 
recommendation from the State of Massachusetts, that the 
three-fifths representation for slaves be abolished, there 
was a feeling that disagreement had got beyond a 
band of radicals. The war had been carried into 
Africa, and was likely to be congressional and national, 
as well as personal and sectional. In accordance with 
this forward movement some abolitionists thought that it 


was time to make the cause a political one and win by 
legislation of their own, eventually, what they had been 
asking others to legislate for them. 

Against this policy of allying abolition with politics the 
two principal leaders threw the weight of their irtfluence. 
Phillips had surrendered his legal practice because he 
would not stand sworn to support a Constitution which 
protected slave hunters. Later, he had given up voting 
under the civic sj^stem until it should be reorganized free 
from any taint of association with injustice. Starting the 
discussion in anti-slavery circles, he published in 1844 an 
argument entitled, " Can Abolitionists Vote or Take Office 
Under the United States Constitution ? " The negative 
of this question was unanimously endorsed by the American 
Anti- slavery Society in the same year by a resolution, 
written by Phillips: ''Resolved, That secession from the 
present United States Constitution is the duty of every 
abolitionist; since no one can take office under the United 
States Constitution without violating his anti-slavery 
principles, and rendering himself an abettor of the slave- 
holder in his sin." It is not necessary to detail divisions 
of Reuben for which there were great searchings of heart. It 
was a question of ways and means with some; of conscience 
with others. Garrison and Phillips kept the high ground 
of educating the popular mind and heart up to voting 
for reforming men and measures, without setting them 
any example at the polls, except that of so great an abhor- 
rence of present conditions that they would not exercise 
rights of franchise conferred by these. This was con- 
sistent with their position as pioneers and road breakers. 
Their place was far in advance of the host. If they some- 


times struck an impossible trail and blazed the wrong trees, 
it was what other surveyors had done. With a dark forest 
before them, it is remarkable that they ran their line so 
close to what afterward became the Nation's way through 
the wilderness. Their conscience was their com[)ass; and 
if they did not allow for variations, their purpose was 

It was at this time that Phillips directed his attention 
to an influence which was obstructing the abolition move- 
ment. Five or six years before, as has been observed, 
the clergy of Massachusetts and Connecticut had demurred 
against the intrusion into their churches and parishes of 
zealots in a cause about whose merits there was much 
difference of opinion, and pastoral appeals to the congrega- 
tions had been issued to dissuade them from encouraging 
such intruders. These addresses drew down strong words 
of condemnation from the abolition press, whose editors 
in turn were stigmatized as infidel and blasphemous — 
Garrison being charged with saying that every day was 
a Sabbath, and every man a minister. It was no trifling 
matter to antagonize the clerical element in New England 
during the last century; and the men who were having hard 
work to get a peaceable hearing for a philanthropic cause 
felt that the class from which they should have received 
their chief support had turned against them. When, there- 
fore, Phillips offered his resolution at a meeting in New 
York about the opposition of a pro-slavery church and 
priesthood, it was in recognition of their identity with 
the most respectable element in communities and its opinion, 
sanctioned by religious beliefs or associated with them. 
He himself had lost none of his early faith, which was of 


the orthodox Calvanistic type, although he had not become 
a member of a church or parish society. These organiza- 
tions represented the rehgion and morahty of the upper 
and middle classes, and their views on the slavery question 
would be reenforced by religious and ecclesiastical authority. 
Whoever should speak of this lightly or adversely needed 
to have weighty reasons for his animadversion. He would 
be expected to defend with uncommon arguments such a 
resolution as this, offered in a New York convention: 

Resolved, That anti-slavery is only to be advanced by 
trampling under foot the political and ecclesiastical links 
which bind slavery to the institutions of this country. 

After remarking on the progress that the gause had made 
and that there was room for still more, Phillips said 
that the pulpit teachings of the country did more toward 
the preservation of slavery than statesmen and politicians 
in a Nation that is called Christian. The Constitution 
and the Church are in the way of emancipation. The 
framers of the Constitution had no idea that it could be used 
for the protection of slavery, which they thought had received 
its death-blow by the prohibition of the slave trade. And 
as for the Union, we have no right to sacrifice the liberties 
of one class to the fears of another. Of the entire speech 
a passer-by, John Neal, editor of Brother Jonathan, dropping 
in, wrote for his paper: 

Having very little interest in the subject under discussion, 
we were meditating an escape to the street, when a gentleman 
with light hair and a countenance remarkable for its intel- 
lectual expression took the platform. He had scarcely opened 
his lips, when we were wide awake, and listening to a burst 


of eloquence perfectly startling. The man was faultless 
in his elocution, graceful in his action, and his argument 
was sustained with a language vivid and full of that generous 
power of feeling which is the life and soul of true oratory. 
His voice broke a little before he closed, but the speech 
was every way worthy of the best orator of any Nation. 



PHILLIPS was now recognized as one of the principal 
champions of aboKtionism. As such he was chosen 
to draw up a respectful address to be presented to President 
Tyler, a slaveholder, on the occasion of his visit to Boston 
in June, 1843, when Bunker Hill monument was dedicated. 

This protest reminded the Chief Magistrate that he had 
subscribed to the Declaration of Independence and had 
sworn to support the Constitution, whose design was to 
secure the blessings of liberty to the people, and that he 
was to join in commemorating the services of those who 
had bled and died in the cause of human liberty. There- 
fore he was asked to acknowledge the rights of man by 
breaking the chains of his own slaves, an example which 
would go far toward the emancipation of three millions of 
American people, and render his name illustrious to the 
latest posterity. As might have been expected, this appeal 
received no consideration, but it served to advertise the 
abolition movement in papers which published the address. 

Further recognition had been accorded Phillips in his 
appointment as General Agent of the Massachusetts Society, 
entailing the practical work of lecturing here and there, 



introducing abolition doctrines in places where they had not 
been published, and organizing clubs and societies. Occa- 
sionally he wrote an open letter or pamphlet which might be 
used as a tract for thoughtful people to read and discuss; 
notably one on the binding nature of oaths to support the 
Constitution so long as one held office, practised law, or even 
voted; the alternative being to surrender these rights rather 
than endorse the document by which they were conferred. 
This abnegation of privilege, he held, would give abolitionists 
a stronger hold on the community. A little later he sent out 
another argument entitled, " The Constitution a Pro-slavery 
Contract; or, Selections from the Madison Papers." 

Fifty years passed under this Constitution show us slaves 
trebling in numbers; slaveholders monopolizing the offices, 
dictating the policy of the Government to the support of 
slavery, trampling on the rights of free states and making the 
courts of the country their tools. We demand that every 
honest man join the outcry — *' No Union with Slavery.'* 

This was one of the advanced pronouncements of disunion 
at the North to match threats in the South by a party which 
wielded a wider influence than the radicals of New England, 
because led by men prominent in national politics, respected 
and followed at home, feared and obeyed in Congress, and in 
the North by the majority of citizens. Southern threats of 
dissolution were met by servile deprecation and compromises. 
Suggestions of disunion by abolitionists encountered maledic- 
tion and persecution. Calhoun and Yancey were regarded 
as men who had a grievance; Garrison and Phillips as 
fanatics and disturbers of the peace. Reviling disunionists 
of its own section, the North encouraged the South to make 
demands which eventually dissevered the Nation. 


At the same time anti-slavery sentiment was gaining ground 
in Northern states. It was helped on by the reception which 
the Legislature of South Carolina gave to Hon. Samuel Hoar, 
whom the State of Massachusetts had sent to test in the United 
States courts the constitutionality of a law by which coloured 
sailors were imprisoned while in the port of Charleston. The 
Governor was called upon to expel the Massachusetts envoy 
from the state; an act in which a hotel keeper took the initia- 
tive, and an escort completed, protecting Mr. Hoar from 
threatened violence. Officially, Massachusetts did not at 
once demur, but separation from offensive states received an 
impulse in the North. It was an opportunity which Phillips 
seized, presenting resolutions at a meeting of the Massa- 
chusetts Society, recommending that the Governor of the 
state demand of the President of the Union that Mr. Hoar 
be sustained by the Federal Government in his constitutional 
right of residence in the port of Charleston. If this were 
refused, Massachusetts, on all principles of national law, 
would become sovereign and independent. 

This interstate discourtesy rankled in Massachusetts mem- 
ories, and for a while dampened zeal to propitiate slave- 
holding interests; but profits of trade soon healed wounded 
pride, and the affair might have been forgotten if abolitionists 
had let it die. It was one of the freaks of political fortune 
that Phillips should incidentally become the champion of an 
official who would not have returned the compliment, and 
who is reported to have remarked, forty years later, that 
though he could not attend the agitator's funeral he approved 
of it. So slow did prejudice die in the last century. 

On the arrival of a second address from Ireland, in 
November, 1843, Phillips once more appealed to the 


countrymen of O'Connell in behalf of the enslaved. 
He quoted the bull of Pope Gregory XVI. in 1839 against 
slavery and the slave trade, which he had seen affixed to the 
door of St. Peter's the winter he was in Rome, and then 
asked where the sect could be found that had so condemned 
slavery as the Catholics, proposed three cheers for the 
aboHtionist, Pope Gregory XVI., and showed the incon- 
sistency of a pro-slavery Irish immigrant from an oppressed 
land riveting the chain from which he had just freed his own 
neck. He should have no prejudice against the Negro. 
Thanks were due O'Connell for rallying sixty thousand 
Irishmen at home and for bidding his countrymen this side of 
the Atlantic to stand by the cause of human rights. 

The vice-president of the Repeal Association venturing to 
remark that there was a difference between being a foe to 
slavery and an open abolitionist, and another following in 
similar strain, Phillips showed his readiness in rejoinder in a 
reply which elicited applause, laughter, and cheers. If he 
had conciliated the Irish element in the hall, he did not spare 
the two speakers who had attempted to divert the sentiment 
of the meeting from its natural course. It cannot be con- 
densed with justice to the orator. Only the last of it can 
be given : 

Sir, our chairman asked if a slaveholder could help repeal, 
if a tyrant could aid liberty. Some answered. Yes. I 
want their names. I want a responsible person to say here 
that repeal overrides humanity; that the slaveholder of 
Carolina is a worthy second to O'Connell at the Corn 
Exchange. Give me a name and I promise to send it 
to Dublin; and if the satire with which its wearer is 
scathed does not make all that was poured on the unlucky 


Brougham milk and water in comparison, I do not know 
Daniel O'Connell. 

Phillips's admiration for the eloquent advocate of freedom 
for the oppressed of his native island won little beyond a 
noisy response from Irish citizens of America. They had 
made sure of their own freedom and franchise. What need 
of liberty, competitive labour, and franchise for another 
race, especially if belonging to another political party .^ 
The difference between emancipation in Dublin and Charles- 
ton was as wide as the Atlantic ocean in the mind of the 



UP TO 1840 the anti-slavery movement had preserved an ' 
apparent unity among its many-minded supporters. 
Other questions, however, at length intruded themselves, 
such as woman's rights, non-resistance, and participation in 
government, which finally split the fraternity into two bands 
— the Old and the New Organizations. One of these 
adhered to the original methods of moral suasion; the other 
began to court alliance with the Church and the world in 
order to use both for its benign purposes and thus to hasten 
the day of their fulfilment. Out of this sprung the germ of ^ 
a political party, having the removal of slavery as its chief 
object. Incidentally, its growth was favoured by an increas- » 
ing opposition to the extension of slavery in the Southwest, 
manifested in the ranks of both the Whig and Democratic 
parties. As early as 1840, despite New England protests, 
the seceded faction had been committed to political warfare, 
and 7,000 votes were cast for Birney, its candidate, in the 
Harrison campaign. Four years later this number was 
increased to 69,000 by voters who called themselves the 
Third Party, which afterward became the Liberty Party, 
then Free Soil, at length to be absorbed into the Republican 
host after sixteen years. 



Mention of this divergent action is needed to make clear 
the position of a primitive abolitionist like Phillips. He 
held to the necessity of convincing one person and another, 
one community and then another, of a national crime. 
When conviction should become general he believed that it 
would find its own mode of expression, either through exist- 
ing parties or a new one. To form one earlier was to make 
abolitionism the butt of more ridicule than if it kept solely to 
its instructive and persuasive methods. These had produced 
some results, but not sufficient to warrant political organiza- 
tion of a few thousand voters. It was playing politics before 
coming of age. 

In this position Mr. Phillips was consistent with that 
ground which was taken by the reformers at the start — to 
keep clear of all political entanglements. They were at 
least freed from suspicion of coveting the delights of leader- 
ship and the rewards of office-holding, while possessing entire 
freedom of action when occasion demanded independence of 
all hindering alliances. Such an emergency was approaching. 

The disunion sentiment North and South was augmented 
by the threatened annexation of Texas. Slaveholders saw 
new states in the broad belt of fresh territory stretching west- 
ward, blooming with prosperity and wealth in limitless cotton 
fields, and insuring the balance of power in Congress. If 
they could not have this, there was room enough for a South- 
ern republic of their own. Calhoun spoke for them when 
he discovered that they were already a minority in the House 
and evenly balanced in the Senate. 

Sir, the day that the balance between the two sections of 
the countiy is destroyed is a day that will not be far removed 
from political revolution, anarchy, civil war, and widespread 


disaster. The balance of this system is in the slaveholdin^ 
states. They are the conservative portion, and, with due 
balance on their part, may uphold this glorious Union of ours. 
But if this policy [of excluding slavery from the new territory 
wrung from Mexico] should be carried out, woe, I say, to this 

In Massachusetts an anti-annexation convention of 
delegates from its ten congressional districts had been held 
on the 29th and 30th of January, 1845, in Boston. Its 
members were of the highest standing in their respective 

A committee "to correspond with such committees as 
might be appointed in other states" was appointed, as in 
Revolution days, and an Address to the People of the United 
States w^as adopted setting forth the moral, political, and 
social objections against annexation. The prevailing tone 
of discussion was moderate, but Calhoun's threats^ had their 
counterpart in President Allen's remark that, "rather than 
have Texas annexed, he was for a dissolution." Garrison 
would have the state look upon the Union as dissolved " if 
the infamous plan should be consummated, and proceed to 
form a new government for herself and such of the free states 
as w ill aid her in carrying out the great purposes of our fathers 
in behalf of civil liberty." The Address itself, however, called 
for nothing stronger than hostility and denunciation. The 
next day, Phillips presented his view of the subject in a 
resolution to the effect that the annexation of Texas was 
unconstitutional and in itself a dissolution of the Union, the 
last of a long series of aggressions and usurpations on the part 

iCalhoun said in the Senate in 1837: "There is but one question that can dissolve the 
Union and that is involved with slavery."— McMaster's "History of the American People," 
vi., 478. On agreement of the North to let it alone. — Ibid, p. 178. 


of the South, making it the duty of Northern states to organ- 
ize a new National Government. 

As usual, the pioneer was in advance of the main army; 
but that it was following at a respectful distance is seen by 
the resolves of the anti-annexation meeting, as well as by act 
of the Massachusetts Legislature February 3, 1845, in a long 
protest against the treatment of Mr. Hoar by South Carolina 
addressed to state governors throughout the country two 
years after the indignity was suffered. However, nothing 
more desperate than retaliation is suggested, with emphasis 
upon the virtue of patience. 

To the ever-recurring question, "Why not marshal your- 
selves into a political party ? " he replied that radical reforms 
could never be carried on by political organizations, since the 
politician must conceal half his principles to carry forward 
the other half and is always looking back over his shoulder 
to see how many are following. The reformer's object is 
duty, not success. He can wait. The two consistent men 
in the country, Calhoun and Garrison, no party could bear. 
Parties delight in trimmers. 

The entire speech, made in New York in May, marked the 
steadfastness with which Phillips adhered to the principles 
of the original abolition movement as opposed to political 
schemes and to ecclesiastical alliances when they were not 
whole-hearted in their opposition to the sin of the nation. 
Concession and compromise he believed prolonged the evil 
and put off the day of its eradication. The remedy must 
kill the roots of a cancerous disease, else it would reappear. 
Anything except total abolition and emancipation was merely 
surface healing and salving over a sore whose cause was in 
the blood of the body politic. The medicine to cleanse it 


was costly; a part of the states had given up their slaves 
before the surrender should become greater. For those 
states that had kept them and profited by them the sacrifice 
would be proportionately greater, but ought to be made. It 
is doubtful if at this time he foresaw the magnitude of the 
loss not only of slaves in the South but of lives, South and 
North, when the disease was finally removed by the knife. 

To the charge that he was fomenting serious dissension 
must be opposed the optimistic view which he took of the 
peaceable methods advocated and pursued by himself and 
his associates. He used the weapons of persuasion and 
conviction only, without threat or bluster. His arguments 
made for peaceable withdrawal from complicity with the 
South in slaveholding, but there was no advocacy of retalia- 
tion for intrusion into Northern territory and trespass 
upon the rights of coloured men who had acquired citizen- 
ship. The natural privilege of self-defence was as far 
as he went in advising them about a possible emergency, 
and flight was always safer. If he stirred up strife it was 
first the struggle that he made men have with their own 
consciences, which finally grew to be a discord between the 
consciences of two sections of the land, without entire unanim- 
ity in either one. Each always had its sympathizers, open 
or secret, in the territory of the other, embittering the main 
contention by secondary dissent, alienating neighbours and 
dividing households. 



DANIEL WEBSTER had attacked Phillips and his 
co-workers for their disturbance of the general con- 
tentment which prevailed, saying: "You that prate of dis- 
union, do you not know that disunion is revolution ? " To 
which Phillips replied : " Yes, we know it, and we are for a 
revolution in the character of the American Constitution 
and a change of the face of society in the South from mediaeval 
to modern conditions, and from love of lucre in the North to 
a sense of political honour." This and much more was the 
tone of his remark at a meeting of the citizens of Massachu- 
setts, without distinction of party, to protest against the 
annexation of Texas. Hon. Charles Francis Adams pre- 
sided; the historian and secretary of the state, John 
G. Palfrey, Charles Sumner, George S. Hillard, Rev. 
William H. Channing, Wendell Phillips, and others, spoke 
on resolutions which protested against perpetuating slavery 
in the new state. A single paragraph from sixteen is cited 
to show the drift of Phillips's remarks, and as containing an 
allusion to an implement which has recently attracted much 
attention to John Bunyan and the "Pilgrim's Progress." 
His employment of the figure is exact. 



We have seen the allegory of the muck rake of Biinyan 
made a reality by men of our own times, who sufl'er the temp- 
tation of the sticks and straws beneath their feet to divert 
their eyes from the freeman's crown that hangs above their 
heads. We have seen men spellbound by the mean magic 
of place and gain, even while over the mirror of the present 
steals the giant shadow of coming despotism. . . . No 
partial efforts can save us now. The slave power is, and 
always has been, mighty in the land. It has scattered to the 
winds the mightiest parties — it has laid low the fairest repu- 
tations, it has thrown down the bulwarks of Saxon liberty 
covered with the hoar of innumerable ages, and now it looks 
on this last triumph as a checkmate. God grant that it may 
overleap itself, and that this effort to rally all honest men to 
the conflict may be crowned with complete success. 

It did overleap itself six weeks later when Texas was 
admitted with slavery and the prospect of a war with 
Mexico. A new party sprung up in the North to check 
Southern aggression. Abolitionists, however, saw no reason 
for joining it, since it did not demand immediate emanci- 
pation. Other men might combine and vote for political 
safeguards; these few who had begun the long warfare on 
humanitarian lines were going to hold their course straight 
on, though it should lead them through fens and over 
mountains, as it had done and was doing every year. 
Other surveyors might squint and consult about circuitous 
ways that were feasible and grades that were easy; these 
men, like Nicholas, had drawn a straight line for 
their road to Moscow and nothing could deflect them 
from it. Sometimes outsiders were drawn in to work 
with them, as on the occasion when the abolitionists 
held a meeting in Faneuil Hall, September 24, 1846, >y 
to protest against the return to New Orleans of a slave 


stowaway who had reached Boston, and escaping from the 
ship, was recaptured by city officials and put in irons on a 
Massachusetts vessel bound South. 

John Quincy Adams had by this time become enough of an 
abolitionist to preside, and Dr. Samuel G. Howe, the philan- 
thropist, stated the object of the meeting, John A. Andrew 
presenting resolutions, and Charles Sumner supporting them. 
The road breakers were getting into good society, or else it 
was itself in bad company, according as the rest of the city 
divided its opinions. 

Phillips's view of the affair that had called the citizens 
together is of more interest here. A full report of it is lacking, 
but an editorial note observed that "the speech of Wendell 
Phillips revealed the advanced state of public opinion on this 
great and fundamental principle of withdrawal from slave- 
holders." It was the only way that then seemed possible to 
haters of human bondage, and all the more possible in that 
its supporters likewise were ready to withdraw. Upon the 
issue which made for this separation and was stirring all the 
North, the war with Mexico, he declared his sentiments in an 
address on December 29, 1846, in Faneuil Hall. After 
remarking upon the small beginnings of the movement, its 
unexpected success, the necessity of strong measures in 
Church and State, the timidity of the Constitution framers 
in dealing with the crime of the colonies, the inefficiencv of 
compromises, the failure of the Church, and the resort to 
political methods which avail little, he comes to the political 
war with a neighbouring republic and asks: 

War for what ? Poor Mexico ! We want her territory ; 
we want it for slavery. The parties say, "The President 
made it, and must support it." I say that in politics there is 


no root which reaches deep enough to grapple with slavery. 
As for the Chiu'ch, we believe that in it lies the only [)ower to 
which we can appeal for strength deep seated enough to 
grapple with slavery — the deep, vital idea of duty. We must 
speak strongly, because the crisis demands plain talking. Let 
the Church of our times deal with the slavery of our day as she 
anciently dealt with national sins when she came across them. 

Early in 1847 Calhoun summed up the political status 
of the North as follows: "1. Abolitionists — about 5 per 
cent, of the voting population. 2. Sober people, willing to 
see slavery abolished, but not by overthrowing the Constitu- 
tion — 70 per cent. 3. Highly respectable people who 
sympathize with the South — 5 per cent. 4. The remainder 
— 20 per cent. — who care less for principles than for the 
spoils. Yet the abolitionists hold the balance of power from 
the nearly equal division of Democrats and Whigs. Hence 
the danger to the South should any party unite with the 

As a companion piece to this outlook may be presented 
the remarks of Phillips on January 26, 1848. Forty 
thousand women of Scotland had addressed the women of 
America in the customary manner of a ponderous roll of 
signatures to a written appeal. It elicited from him the 
tribute he was always glad to give to the assistance women 
were rendering to the cause, adding that "from a woman's 
lips the Old World first heard the doctrine and learned the 
lesson of immediate emancipation. Ah! that little word 
immediate. What an amount of meaning it has, and how 
potent to show the real character of a man's opposition to an 
evil which he is combating!" 

The little band which Calhoun had reckoned as 5 per cent, 
of the voting force of the North was not to be identified with 


the Liberty Party by Phillips nor with any voting contingent. 
He was bent on keeping genuine reform limited to the most 
difficult methods and to those people only who would hold 
to the original policy, even if its triumph should be a genera- 
tion distant. Therefore, he clung to his maxim that, "With 
God one is a majority." Numbers meant a letting down 
of a high standard. To keep this he would wait a lifetime. 
Any other victory was not worth winning. The handful of 
fighters for it were nearer 1 per cent, of the country's voters 
than 5; nor would they vote at all. Their power was that 
of a single idea, slowly spreading, gradually growing — the 
little sapling that by and by should split the rock. A hint of 
how this would be done is contained in this very speech, show- 
ing that to its author had not yet occurred the way in which 
it would come about at last almost twenty years later. In 
fact, no one of that day believed that slavery could be 
abolished and the Union saved. 

The question had been raised here and there as to what 
the North would do in the event of a servile insurrection. 
It was one that was generally evaded as unpleasant to dis- 
cuss or even contemplate. Phillips evidently had no 
disposition to interfere with any race that should make 
a desperate rising for its deliverance from despotic bondage. 
He feared that it might come. If it should, he wanted 
the North to stand still — to give it no encouragement, 
but also to have no part in sending its men to help desolate 
the hovel of the slave. 

That the abolitionists were taking in earnest the matter 
of disunion appears from Phillips's remarks before the com- 
mittee on disunion petitions which were coming before 
the Legislature. The morning papers had suggested 


that any attention paid to these petitions was a waste of 
time which is paid for by the pubHc. After intimating 
that it would be well for the press to touch with a reverent 
hand anything that relates to the right oj 'petition, just as 
the grave had closed over Adams, amidst testimonies of 
national respect but once before equalled on this side the 
ocean, he proceeded to say that these tributes were paid 
on account of his defence and practice of this right of the 
few and the humblest to be heard by the Government. Then 
he turned to his topic, disunion. 

It is not a rare word in our national history. Disappointed 
ambition has often, for a moment, longed for separate 
confederacies, in which there should be more presidential 
chairs than one. And sometimes even a state, thwarted 
in its favourite purpose, has threatened to shoot madly 
from its sphere. But the abolitionists are the only men 
who have ever calmly, soberly, and from their mature 
conviction, proclaimed at the outset their purpose to seek 
the dissolution of this American Union; and this from no 
bitterness of personal or party disappointment, but solely 
at the bidding of principle and from a sense of duty. 
These petitions are called revolutionary. They are 
intended to be. We hope they are akin to the meas- 
ures and principles of our 1776. Wise lawyers doubt 
whether a state can constitutionally secede from the 
Union. We do not propose this as a constitutional 
measure. The right of a people to alter their form of 
government has never been denied here. It is upon 
that right we stand. The right of each generation to 
govern itself. 

The year of the great hegira to California, 1849, was full 
of ferment. Its determination to be free had clouded 
I Southern expectations of the Pacific coast, while Northern 


subserviency to slaveholding interests was growing slack. 
Agitation of the engrossing question was invading state 
legislatures and becoming persistent in Congress. Calhoun 
wrote a long address for his colleagues to send to their 
constituents, setting forth the difficulty of catching fugi- 
tives in free states and charging the North with bad faith 
in declining to support pro-slavery articles of the Consti- 
tution, and Garrison chimed in with the statement that if 
the North could not keep its part of the compact it should 
withdraw. Middle states papers thereupon deplored the 
secession which extremists of both sections threatened, 
and moderate journals on both sides joined in conciliatory 
propositions. For his own coterie Phillips wrote in the 
Liberty Bell, under the caption, "Everything Helps Us": 
" Success is no test of the merit of an individual and 
defeat no argument against him. An enterprise, enclos- 
ing a right principle, always triumphs. It meets with 
nothing but victories. It passes itself into the bosom of 
its seeming conqueror and silently it becomes its vassal. 
It may yet come to pass that it will be given 
out as a subject for themes at Harvard, 'Which did the 
most, Garrison or Calhoun, for the downfall of American 
slavery ? ' " 

At this time he pronounced the Free Soil movement 
the result of anti-slavery agitation carried into politics; 
half-hearted as yet, and therefore constituting no reason 
for modifying advanced views which insisted on the right 
of petition, and even revolution, when the Constitution 
antagonizes public opinion, ranging itself with the law 
^ of God. But political parties, supporting the Constitution, 
could do nothing against its provisions for slavery; only 


fanaticism, so called, could work effectively for emancipa- 
tion, and therefore abolitionists do not join political parties. 
Christianity might, if it would, equalize and renovate 
society and be a pioneer of humanity for a sixth part of the 
population now in bondage. 

There is no misunderstanding what Phillips's position 
was at this time. It is easier to understand now, however, 
than in 1849. Even then it was seen to be consistent, but 
with what was regarded as treason or next to it. In simple 
terms, he considered that a noxious weed had overrun the 
land. Its baleful bloom and poisonous fruit were in the 
South; its roots ran in Northern soil, above which once it 
thrived moderately but not profitably. Some said. Keep 
it where it is; others. Let it run into fresh fields; others still. 
Remove it gently and gradually, by emancipation, trans- 
planting slaves to Africa, after their purchase from owners. 
The thoroughbred abolitionist said to the slaveholder. 
Uproot it now. Free your slaves to-day. You have no 
property rights in them that you are not stealing. Give 
up your stolen goods. 

The strangest thing of all is that these ultra-reformers 
kept their faith in an unconditional surrender strong enough 
to labour on without any sign of gain in the South. Their 
view, by no means general in the North, must possess an 
entire half the country before such a sacrifice could be 
thought of. Even then every inherited belief and every 
present interest was against it. Full payment for slaves 
would not have provided with certainty for future cultiva- 
tion of crops. Moreover, instead of emancipation sentiments 
growing in the South, they were diminishing through Northern 
increase of them and of agitation. Slaveholders were rising 


up in wrath and combining for resistance to aggression, 
uttering threats of secession with more probabihty of 
carrying them out than the little band of disunionists at 
the North could show. In the face of all this, Phillips, now 
President of the New England Society, could say at its 
annual meeting of 1849: "We shall do it yet. The times 
have changed. We have changed the tone of public senti- 
ment, or, rather, events have changed it for us. Massachu- 
setts is an asylum for the flying bondman, to some extent. 
Put that down to our credit." 

The third of August, a day of fasting for prevailing 
cholera appointed by President Taylor, Phillips, in a 
long speech at Worcester, was inclined to consider as a day 
of humiliation for the national sin of slavery, with which 
abolitionists had nothing to do, since they had spent their 
lives in protesting against it. Instead, it should be a day 
of feasting to celebrate the freeing of nearly a million slaves 
in the West Indies, the first effort of the English people 
to effect a national change by moral means. Discussing 
the difference between their methods and our own, British 
statesmen and American, he observed that no man worth 
remembering failed to record his protest against the crime, 
citing Burke, Pitt, Brougham, Romilly, O'Connell, and 
Wilberforce. The social prejudice against colour was 
not powerful as it is here, even in the North where we are 
the jailors and constables of the institution, as Channing 
said. He wanted legislative rebellion against this bondage 
to the South. The Constitution and Union are fetters 
to us and weapons to our foes. To the stock objection of 
danger in freeing American slaves, he brought the example 
of eight hundred thousand West Indian blacks and their 


peaceable conduct when they might have wiped out their 
white masters, who were only one-tentli of their number. 
The experiment was successful if there was one of them 
left alive, if anarchy did not reign. Not only was the 
freedman quiet, but just as much was raised and exported, 
if that must be counted as an element of success. "Do 
not hesitate to follow the English example. Educate the 
slumbering conscience. We are still a noble people. Show 
them their duty to get rid of slavery and they will spring 
to the work with the energy of a people waking new and 
fresh to their duties. You have it in your power to stir 
up your statesmen, and to call out their talent to do your 

Ralph Waldo Emerson's appearance at this meeting 
and his philosophical view of the general subject of American 
slavery are both interesting and instructive. He rejoiced 
in the march of events and the progress of the great universal 
human genius which turns even our vices to the general 
benefit. He regarded the planters of the South as bar- 
barous people in the process of improvement, not ac- 
countable like those whose eyes have been opened to 
the best Christianity. Enervated by their climate, 
demoralized by their habits, still they are as innocent in 
their slaveholding as we in our Northern vices. But as 
man rises in civilization the institution will become dis- 
creditable, and perish, as the old institutions which have 
gone before it. 

An echo to the sentiment of this meeting came back 
from the WVst Indies soon after in resolutions adopted 
here and there on the same anniversary, proposed and 
passed by the very planters who had resisted the purchased 


. i 

emancipation of their slaves and had denounced the aboli- 
tionists of England. They also broadly suggested to other 
"countries in close commercial relations with Great Britain" 
that they imitate their example of emancipation. In two 
weeks after the Worcester celebration Phillips addressed 
a long letter to James Haughton, of Dublin, Ireland, 
on the inconsistency of Father Mathew's silence about 
slavery when in America — a greater evil than intemperance 
— a silence all the more observable in view of his prominence 
in the Irish Address of 1842, when he said that "no one 
could be neutral"! In seeking to save his influence he 
has lost the confidence of reformers. Every Northern 
Doughface sees the great Teetotaller belittled to his own 
level. He has got so humbly upon his knees before the 
slave power that our editors cannot get low enough to be 
level with him. Silence from such a visitor is most signifi- 
cant support; and he quoted Howard's fearless denunciation 
in Vienna of the prisons of Austria, despite the warning 
that his words would be reported to the Emperor, adding, 
"God grant the world another Howard, and may he visit 
these states." 

Phillips had now been connected with the anti-slavery 
movement some fifteen years. Beginning with the advo- 
cacy of rights which were to be secured as preliminary to 
the abolition of slavery — the rights of free discussion, of 
a free press, and of petition to law-making bodies — he had 
gone on to assert the natural rights and to condemn the 
wrongs of the enslaved, and to attack the articles of the 
Constitution under which these wrongs were possible. He 
had presented appeals from Great Britain, and pointed to 
the peaceful emancipation of its slaves in the West Indies. 


He had called on the South to imitate this act, and had 
denounced the North for its apathy and comj)licity in a 
national crime. Despite all, he saw the intention of the 
South to extend slaveholding into new territory; but as a 
hopeful sign he observed in the North a growing opposition 
to such extension. To threats of disunion in slave states 
he was ready to oppose the withdrawal of free states, de- 
claring that separation was better than a union which en- 
dorsed human bondage. 

In these years he had devoted himself entirely to public 
discussion of this disturbing question, and others of less con- 
sequence, before representative audiences that received him 
and his proposals with varying degrees of disapproval. He 
had never failed to gain attention by the charm of his 
eloquence, and usually conquered opposition before he 
ceased speaking. Many had been made to think soberly of 
a national inconsistency, and the promise of a harvest in the 
far future from a diligent sowing of wholesome truth was fair. 
At the age of forty, he was in the midst of a movement which 
was spreading from a little band of enthusiasts to an increas- 
ing number in every Northern state. Its voting power 
commended it to political consideration, and the voters 
themselves saw the value of united action. Although Phillips 
himself discountenanced political alliances, he knew that 
ballots would eventually win. Meantime it was his business 
to educate voters wherever they would hear him. As 
an orator he had learned by long practice to do what 
the old style of speakers could not do so well as he in the free- 
lance methods which he followed. He was armed at all 
points and ready for every attack. He had discovered the 
cost of maintaining unpopular doctrines, but this had given 


him the loftiness of a reformer. Standing alone, or with a 
pitiable minority, and leaning upon none, he gained the 
strength of the independent, and trusted to the power of right 
when once accepted by an instructed people. He had need 
of all his faith and hope and courage as the first half of the 
century closed. 






THE middle of the century marked the end of the first 
period of anti-slavery strife. Its results were seen in 
a wide-spread conviction that slavery ought not to be 
extended be^'ond its limits at the time; but this opinion was 
not efficient enough to prevent the annexation of Texas. 
This advantage gained, the supporters of the institution were 
willing to join with upholders of the Union in bringing about 
a second "era of good feeling"; and the leaders of the two 
sections, Webster and Calhoun, both addressed themselves 
to the question, How can the Union be preserved ? Cal- 
houn had given his solution of the problem in the Senate on 
March 4th — the South to have more territory, her runaway 
slaves to be returned by Northern assistance, all agitation of 
the disturbing question to be stopped, and the " equilibrium " 
restored to slave states — that is, the balance of power. 

Three days after, Webster pronounced his famous Seventh 
of March Speech, otherwise, his political death chant. If it 
had been as positive and uncompromising for his half of the 
nation as was Calhoun's for his, doubtless the Union which 
he counted dear above all else might have been endangered. 
His opponent's threat of secession was ringing in his ears, and 
he w^ent more than half way with apologies and concessions 



to a disgruntled South for the sake of peace and the Union 
as it had thus far been maintained. It is not necessary 
to charge that he was bidding .for the presidency. Let it 
stand that a united country was the end and aim of all his 
poHtical hfe, and that he actually represented the views and 
interests of a large and respectable constituency, who hastened 
to send him testimonials of their accord. Nevertheless, he 
soon found that he had struck a note to which the general 
Northern feeling did not respond, and that he had won noth- 
ing from the South. All that had been secured was tempor- 
ary quiet. Men went back to their farms and merchandise 
and there was a clearing sky. It looked as if the abolition 
question were to be laid aside for the want of such a leader as 
Daniel Webster might have been, and in his failure to seize 
a passing opportunity. Many were glad that he did not ally 
himself with abolition, while losing their pride in him for his 
lack of courage, or for prizing the Union and Constitution 
above national righteousness and good repute among the 
nations. The few radicals meanwhile lowered not an inch 
their banner on which was emblazoned, " No Union with 

Within a fortnight after its delivery Phillips had written 
a review of Webster's speech almost as long, which showed 
that on occasion he could handle the pen to some purpose, 
distasteful as this method of address was to him, as com- 
pared with public speech. At the outset he defines his own 
position as a disunionist, not from any love for separate con- 
federacies, or as ignorant of the thousand evils that spring 
from neighbouring and quarrelsome states; but he would 
get rid of this Union because experience had shown it to be, 
in its character and construction, an insurmountable obstacle 


to the harmony of the nation. He would substitute for it 
one that would insure harmony of all the races and all the 
states. With this view, he says, Mr. Webster has no sym- 
pathy. "He has nothing to propose on the removal of the 
disturbing element. A true friend of the Union would seize 
this moment to propose some grand and comprehensive plan 
of abolition, instead of shutting his eyes to the future, not 
daring to look impending danger in the face. No man can 
tell by his three hours' speech whether he loves slavery or 
hates it. His argument is that we are pledged by the Con- 
stitution and acts of Congress to let slavery alone, and to let 
it spread in the new Texan states, five of tliem, that may be 
admitted by a gross breach of the Constitution." This is 
considered at length; also Mr. Webster's surrender of the 
Wilmot Proviso, quoting his former pronouncements, and 
observing his recent change. The alleged impossibility of 
slavery in Calif ornian territory is discussed, with the admis- 
sion of justice in Southern complaints against the North^ 
indicating another sudden change of front. His chief offence, 
however, is the baseness of endorsing slave-hunting in free 
states. "Villain is not too harsh a name for a man who is 
ready to return fugitive slaves. It is a poor excuse that he 
squared his morality by the statute book of his time. Great 
men refuse to be confined by a country's fashion. He could 
see clearly enough when he was looking at Kossuth and not at 
a Negro. He also volunteers to support other thoughtless 
and cruel regulations; to surrender any person claimed as 
a slave, according to the atrocious provisions of Mr. Mason's 
bill; he is non-committal in his reference to the imprisonment 
of Northern coloured seamen in Southern ports; resents 
instructions from his constituents; passes over tamely and 


pusillanimously the unconstitutional acquisition of so much 
Southern territory since 1803 ; is silent on the subject of mis- 
chievous compromises, and suddenly favourable to a scheme 
of colonization which he formerly regarded as a slaveholder's 
trick." To Webster's question, "What is to remain Ameri- 
can?" Phillips replies: "In our opinion, whatever clings to 
the great American idea of taking pains to reenact, and prac- 
tise, so plain a law of God as that all men are created equal/' 

In this condensation of eight newspaper columns nothing 
more than the stakes on the plain can be noted, showing the 
general direction of comment and criticism. In his reproba- 
tion of the great statesman's last effort Phillips spoke for the 
extremists, as Whittier did in his verse entitled — "Ichabod" 
— whose glory had departed. But both these condemnatory 
utterances echoed a feeling which the North and South had 
in common, that the chief Senator of the free states had 
truckled to the slave power to save the Union intact. On 
the street it was called "the best bid that had been made for 
the Presidency." Instead, it might have been remarked that 
he was one of the three political leaders who were too great to 
occupy the presidential office, according to the standards and 
requirements of the mid-century. 

In the same week that this review of Webster's speech was 
published a meeting was held in Faneuil Hall of "citizens of 
Boston and vicinity who have read with surprise, alarm, and 
deep regret the speech of Hon. Daniel Webster in the 
United States Senate."^ 

At this meeting, Phillips supplemented his strictures in 
print by a speech in which he arraigned the Senator who had 

'For Mr. Webster's final position among his Northern friends, see Lodge's "Life" in 
chapter on the "Seventh of March Speech," p. 301, first edition. 


struck a false note that jarred upon the general sentiment of 
the free states. He likened this course to an impossible 
desertion of Sam Adams to the British or a defection by John 
Hancock. "Grant his premise; it is the cause of liberty 
on the one hand and of tyranny on the other. He gave aid 
and comfort to the enemy and tended to make slavery per- 
petual. His present doctrine is inconsistent with his past; 
is apostate to his pledges. Surrendering one of his constitu- 
ents to the terms of Mason's bill, he surrenders him to slavery. 
The defender of the Constitution forgets its guaranty of trial 
by jury, which Southerners tell us is inconsistent with slavery. 
He accuses Northern legislators and apologizes for Southern; 
and changes his speech for readers in each section." Such 
are a few points in an hour's discussion of which the following 
is one of the closing paragraphs: 

If he has so little knowledge of the moral sense of New 
England as to think that he can stand up in the face of this 
community after he has pledged himself to be a slave-hunter, 
let him learn to respect the intelligence of New England, 
which knows at least when it is betrayed. Let him learn that 
we have been too good disciples not to carry out his lessons 
into deeds; that we mean to stand by the principles of the 
ordinance of 1787; that where the South clings to the right to 
carry their slaves into the territory of the West, just there we 
will be vigilant. 

Press comments upon Webster's speech varied according 
to interests represented; but the general condemnatory 
character of them in his own state was heightened by his 
Revere House remarks to friends assembled to welcome him 
on his return from Congress. His exhortation to Massa- 
chusetts to overcome her prejudices and support recent 


enactments sunk him still lower in the opinion of his oppo- 
nents. He had turned his back upon the North and was 
facing South, as they thought. He thought, it is to be 
charitably presumed, that he was boxing the compass to save 
the Ship of State. 

At the May meeting of the American Anti- slavery Society 
in New York, in 1850, Pb.illips and other speakers with 
great difficulty were able to get a hearing, the famous Rynders 
mob taking possession of the hall and dividing attention with 
the delegates. The chief interest of this meeting now is in 
a letter of sympathy to Garrison written by Whittier, and the 
appointment of Lowell on the executive committee for the 
ensuing year. Literature was coming to the help of reform. 
Subsequently, a meeting was held in Plymouth Church, 
Brooklyn, since there was danger of interruption at the 
advertised hall. Rev. Henry Ward Beecher took the 
responsibility of opening his church and called the meeting 
to order, saying that it was in his blood and in his bones to 
stand up for free speech. He then introduced Wendell 
Phillips, who continued the discussion of this right and also 
that of severe speech when the occasion demands it. 

From Luther down, the charge against every reformer 
has been that his tongue is too rough. Be it so. Rough 
instruments are used for rough work. To lift up our voice 
against slavery has been called blasphemy and infidelity. 
I say this — that with forty thousand pulpits, seven hundred 
thousand slaves have grown into three millions, and that 
statutes so bloody have been enacted under their teaching 
that those of Draco are light in comparison. While in the 
old country every great man desires to place on record his 
sentiments in favour of lil^erty and progress, Websters can 
be bought up here faster than nature can make them. An 


American's logic is as clear as the sun upon every subject 
in the world except one. If it relates to a white man, it is 
lucid and bright; but the moment you touch on a black man, 
it veers about like the needle of a compass when it comes near 
a mass of iron. Would to God that one night would sweat out 
all the black from the skins of slaves, and tlien there would 
be no difRculty about the question. You love the American 
banner. But every sixth man under its stars and stripes 
is a slave, with whose blood its folds are stained. With 
regard to the fugitive slave, the turning point on which so 
much hinges at present, I would say, Constitution or no 
Constitution, God has given us a conscience superior to all 
law, and whenever a slave touches our free soil, let him be 
free beyond the reach of a tyrant. A mighty question is now 
involved in this, namely, whether an immoral Constitution 
ought to be obeyed; but I have not time to discuss it now. 
Remember that the Bible is heavier than the statute book. 

Mr. Bcecher, at the close of this lecture of an hour and a 
half, thanked the assembly — not for being gentlemanly — 
but for conceding the right of liberty of speech, which had 
been denied in New York.* 

In Boston, a few weeks later, the New England Conven- 
tion was not treated so well. During day and evening 
sessions endeavours were made repeatedly to disturb, insult, 
and break them up. Seven newspapers of the city joined 
in ridiculing the whole affair with scurrility and caricature. 
It looked like a reversion to the original type of opposition 
twenty years before. The explanation is found in the 
tense-strung condition of public feeling. Sentiment was 
getting more evenly divided and more generally aroused. 
The recent encroachments of the Slave Power, its exactions 

lOf the audience it was recorded by a correspondent of the Hartjord Republican that they 
hissed at first, then partly cheered — but the last three-quarters of an hour was one storm 
of deafening cheers. This was the usual conduct of Phillips's audiences for thirty years. 


in Congress and demands upon the North were making 
aboHtionists and free-soilers every day. On the other side, 
conservatives and business men were conceding everything 
to save the Union and Southern trade. Strife in Northern 
cities was greater than it could be in Southern; yet harmony 
in them also was by no means entire. 

The points which Phillips emphasized in his speech at 
the Boston meeting were, at first, in answer to the old charge 
of abuse and denunciation made against abolitionists, saying, 
in substance, that words are made for us; if abusive, the 
fault lies in deserving them; the abuse in applying them 
unfairly or unkindly. To arrest the attention of the masses 
the plainest speech must be used. If you dislike our words, 
show us that they are not true. The best thing for an honest 
man is to speak that which comes uppermost. Why is it 
that no daily press in New York, Boston, or New England 
reports us with the slightest fidelity, but always interlards 
its sketch of our meetings with abuse in order to make it 
palatable? "Tray, Blanche, and Sweetheart all bark at 
us." The littlest press is of importance to us, just as 
Daniel Webster's speech is of importance to us. When 
anti-slavery articles are really wanted, depend upon it, 
the Respectable Daily will furnish them; as when the hand 
touches eleven on the dial the Websters and Winthrops 
will make their great anti-slavery speeches. IMr. Webster 
says that the Constitution orders the return of fugitive 
slaves. So say we; and that is the reason why we hate 
the Constitution. Let posterity be our judge. Harvard 
College once trampled on Dr. FoUen for his anti-slavery 
principles. Ten years later how anxiously did the college 
attempt to explain away the ugly fact! 


The rest of the speech is devoted to Webster and 
unhappy retainers in Boston. He judges him by his form 
pronouncements and by his highest law — the Constitution 
"The Northern side of his memory is paralyzed," as 
Beecher says. 

On the 18th of September the climax of slaveholding 
encroachment was reached by the enactment of the Fugi- 
tive Slave Bill. It had already passed the Senate, and now 
received in the House 109 yeas to 75 nays. In a modified 
form it was already a part of the Constitution, but not 
very effective. To make it more efficient, additional provi- 
sions now required the appointment of slave-catching 
commissioners and assistants in the states and territories, 
who, upon the claim of any master or his agent, should 
seize a fugitive, his own testimony not to be allowed. Persons 
hindering the execution of the law were to be fined $500 
and imprisoned six months; for causing an escape, $1,000; 
an officer permitting an escape was to be held for the value 
of the slave; and for default of duty, in his capture, a fine 
of $1,000 recoverable by law was imposed. For a slave 
returned, his fee was to be $10; and $5 in any case. 

The temper with which this law was received in free 
states is indicated by one of the resolutions passed the next 
day at a meeting in Salem, Ohio, a state which, with Massa- 
chusetts and New York, had been in the front rank of opposi- 
tion to the Slave Power for twenty years. In substance 
it urged the principle of death to kidnappers for the defence 
of personal rights and liberties. Massachusetts spoke in 
more measured language in resolutions adopted at a mass 
meeting in Faneuil Hall on the 14th of October, Josiah 
Quincy presiding. Their substance was, that our moral 


revolts against the law; which we denounce as con- 

'.lictory to the Declaration of Independence; that we can- 
jt believe any citizen of this city will take part in returning 
I fugitive; and that we ought to demand instant repeal of 
the law. 

At this meeting the appearance of Wendell Phillips is 
mentioned, as might be expected, "who spoke for about an 
hour in his usually clear, forcible, and eloquent style." 

To the question of danger under the Fugitive Slave Law 
to numerous coloured folk living in Boston, and as to what 
they had best do, he said that he was unprepared to reply. 
He could not talk of violence. " In this law the bulwarks 
of liberty are all broken, and it is a base libel to call it a 
constitutional law. We must trample it under our feet. 
It expects and provides for disobedience; God forbid that 
it should be disappointed. By peaceful resistance we must 
interrupt the slaveholders and say that the fugitive who 
has breathed Massachusetts air shall never go back. Many 
have been here from twelve to twenty years, and we are 
not going to people Southern plantations with men born 
in Massachusetts. Disobey this law until the courts rule 
it unconstitutional." 

Coloured citizens, however, were not divested of their 
fears, and froni Boston, as from the Northern cities and states, 
there was a general exodus to Canada, adding to the twenty 
thousand negroes already living in the Dominion. Mean- 
time arrests were multiplying, often of blacks who had 
acquired citizenship and were getting their living in New 
York, Philadelphia, and Western cities. They were not 
allowed to say why they should not be surrendered to any 
claimant on the flimsiest of demands. 


In Boston an instance occurred five months after the 
passage of the act, February, 1851, when one Shadrach 
was haled before the Commissioner. At liis citation before 
the court, a crowd of coloured persons attended and mana^red 
to get him so mixed with them that all at once he could not 
be identified, and was suddenly passed out and hurried 
off in a "black cloud," which a white one could not overtake 
this side the Canada line. 

Great outcry against Massachusetts was made by the 
South for this open violation of the Compromise of 1850 
and for the disturbance of the era of tjood feelinef which 
was to follow it. This was partly restored by a different 
issue in the next arrest. Thomas Sims, a slave who left 
Georgia on Washington's birthday, 1851, had l^een in Boston 
a month when he was taken and lodged in the court-house 
on the evening of April 3d and brought before Commissioner 
Curtis the next day; Charles Sumner, Richard H. Dana, Jr., 
and Samuel E. Sewall appearing for the prisoner. After 
the hearing of his pursuer's testimony that he was the slave 
of one James Potter, and after further legal proceedings, 
he was remanded, to be escorted under a military guard 
of some three hundred, led by the Mayor, to the brig Acorn, 
bound for Savannah. Boston had begun to redeem her 
reputation at the South. The city press congratulated 
citizens that the affair had terminated in such a way as to 
deserve credit from Southerners and to discourage aboli- 
tionists. But they were not silenced. 

On the day following the arrest of Sims Phillips 
addressed a great public meeting on the Common, and 
another in Tremont Temple three days later, and still 
another four days afterward in Washington Hall on the 


day of rendition. The burden of his speeches was the 
subserviency of Boston with all its traditions of liberty to 
pro-slavery enactments for fear of alienating Southern trade. 
The seizure and return of slaves in the streets of a free city 
had roused the liberty-loving spirit of the middle class, 
but cotton and commerce were too important factors to be 
overlooked in State Street. Moreover, to side with aboli- 
tionists would have been an ignoble way of asserting the 
old doctrine of liberty. But there was no lack of its presen- 
tation by Phillips and others, not only on this immediate 
occasion, but in the following January and on the succeeding 
April anniversary of Sims's rendition. The speeches on 
these two occasions were placed by Phillips's consent early 
in the first volume of his addresses. They are followed 
by a notable one on the Philosophy of the Abolition Move- 
ment, which may be considered as an exposition of his atti- 
tude on the question which was then agitating the entire 

The Fugitive Slave Law was now doing its worst, not 
without opposition in some places, and causing the flight 
of about ten thousand Negroes from their homes in free 
states to the Dominion of Canada. Few besides abolitionists 
were more greatly stirred by this sudden migration than 
they would have been by the flight of geese to Northern 
lakes. Egypt generally was glad at their departing, espe- 
cially the common labourers in the field and in the simpler 
trades. They made wages higher for the new immigrant 
by their absence. A greater indignity was needed to stir 
greater numbers in the North. It was to be perpetrated 

Meantime there was an occasion to provoke remark 


from Phillips in the coming of Kossuth to enlist the sympathy 
of Americans for his native Hungary, oppressed by Austria, 
which was marked in his speeches by no discrimination 
between different sections and no word for the enslaved. 
The inconsistency of such silence did not escape the leaders 
of emancipation. Phillips arraigned the Hungarian on 
the 27th of December, 1851, in an address of great length 
and power in which he applied the principles of liberty, 
justice, and humanity, for which Kossuth pleaded, to a 
race that he had avoided mentioning. In this speech are 
seen his milder methods of dealing with a person whose 
chief desire, like his own, was for freedom, but whose 
partial advocacy was repellent to one who never did any- 
thing by halves. It was a criticism rather than a diatribe, 
based upon the consistency and whole -heartedness which 
he had a right to expect, but which, by the way, would 
have been fatal to Kossuth's hopes of general assistance 
if he had preached deliverance to the captive in the United 
States. But Phillips spared no man who was politic in 
his qualified devotion to a principle; and when he offered 
resolutions a month later at the annual meeting of the 
New England Society he condemned Kossuth's course 
in praising American statesmen indiscriminately, and in 
endorsing the Mexican War and the Fugitive Slave Bill, 
as falsehood to his high professions and treason to the cause 
of human rights, injurious to his nation and fatal to his own 
fame. This time he forsook the calmness of his first speech, 
and even of his customary discourse, and for once became 
violent in manner as well as denunciatory in his address.^ 

lAn open letter to Kossuth by Garrison printed (in part) in the Liberator, and in full in 
a pamphlet of sixty pages, contrasted the Hungf.rian's subserviency to slavery with the att'tuae 
of some other notable foreigners, and recounted the atrocities of the system about which he 
had chosen to be silent. See "Life of Garrison," iii., 351- 



THE force with which aboHtionists had chiefly to contend 
in the mid-century years of truce between the North 
and South Avas represented by Daniel Webster, the advocate 
of quiet by compromise. Consequently, this man who had 
been the pride of the Whigs and of New England became a 
target for Phillips on account of his recent unfriendly attitude 
toward the growing anti-slavery sentiment, and because he 
represented the non-interference policy of commercial and 
political interests, which had made haste to endorse his 
conciliatory position. It was the latest stand taken by 
wealthy and influential neighbours. In dealing with Webster, 
Phillips was addressing them also, and combating the 
power that belongs to vested interests and social preeminence. 
Besides, Webster had condescended to cast a slur upon 
the abolition movement, calling it a "rub-a-dub agitation, 
whose only result was a little noise." Phillips retorted 
by saying: 

He knew better. He knew better the times in which he 
lives. . . . Any name, however illustrious, which links 
itself to abuses is sure to be overwhelmed by the impetuous 
current of that society which is potent to clear its own channel. 
Thanks to the printing press, men now do their own thinking 



and statesmen have ceased to he either the leaders or the 
clogs of society. 

"The Revere House statesman," as he calls his latest 
opponent, he then proceeds to dissect and com]>are with the 
Webster that once was, and his statesmanship in 1852 with 
what it ought to be. 

Let the statesman take care lest this "morbid philanthropy** 
beat all his dead institutions to dust. He is but a feather's 
weight in the balance against the average of public sentiment 
on the subject of slavery. I believe in the twenty millions — 
not that live now, necessarily — to arrange this question which 
priests and politicians have sought to keep out of sight. 
When the nation sees that the interests of a class only are 
subserved by human bondage, then the change will come. 

With such sentiments did Phillips stem the quiet but strong 
current that was setting against the cause in 1852 with greater 
effect than the noisy mobs of a score of years before. With 
philosophy based upon historic movements, and illustrated 
by English and French examples in particular, did he brace 
the energies and buoy up the hopes of his associates in New 
England and wherever their weekly sheets, the Liberator and 
the Standard, bore the reports of his addresses or the articles 
he sometimes penned as a contributory or an associate editor. 
But they were especially favoured who heard his voice and 
saw his presence, although they could not account for his 
marvellous power. It was not in what Webster had called 
the sum of eloquence — "godlike action," nor in the organ 
tones of a voice like his own — sometimes, his contem- 
poraries said, clothing nonsense with thunder. It was the 
conversation of one with a hundred or a thousand, so quiet, 
so direct, so clear, that each hearer felt himself addressed. 


and often forgot the multitude around him until some tumul- 
tuous response told him that a thousand hearts had been 
struck like his own. Had the orator been in the ranks of 
either of the two great parties his fame would have been still 
greater in all the Nation. But the inspiration of a humane 
cause would have been lacking in politics, which took little 
account of it at that time. 

The speech from which a few lines have been taken was 
made on January 28, 1852, and was followed by another on 
the 30th in which he attacked the other great obstacle that 
for twenty years had stood in the way of freedom — impartant 
commercial interests, otherwise Southern trade. 

Property has been regarded as the great element the Govern- 
ment is to stand by and protect — the mills of Lawrence, the 
ships of Boston, the mines of Pennsylvania. If placing one 
dollar on the top of another be the chief end of man, be it so. 
Dr. Johnson said of a certain Scotsman that if he saw a 
dollar on the other side of hell, he would make a spring for 
it at the risk of falling in. The Yankee character seems too 
near /that. Massachusetts representatives have always looked 
to the Southern Cross; not to the North Star. They never 
looked to the state that sent them. They are beginning to 
look toward Faneuil Hall; not like Webster, to the " October 
sun of the Old Dominion." In this hall has been the rebuke 
of the City Government and of the commercial interest whose 
servant it stooped to be. 

Three months later, on t«he first anniversary of Sims's 
rendition, he struck a new note of desperation at the working 
of the Fugitive Slave Law. A great defeat had befallen the 
cause of abolition. For the moment his sadness might have 
been mistaken for despair. 

The delusion cannot be kept up that fugitives can be pro- 


tected in Massachusetts. Therefore tell them to fly — or to 
arm themselves. I am willing to wait for the abolition of 
slavery; it must proceed slowly. But the return of a fugitive 
is a different thing. If circumstances prevent flight, there is 
a course left if you have the courage to face it. I do not 
advise it. I can only tell what I would do in your case. The 
appeal to a Massachusetts jury for a man's right to liberty 
and self -protection might not be in vain. It is the launch- 
ing of a new measure in our enterprise; but I know of no 
pledge against it. No, I am not a non-resistant. I have 
no defence except I make it. If I do, who will cast the 
first stone ? 

Although Phillips had never committed himself to the 
non-resistant tenet of Garrison, this open suggestion of self- 
defence shows to what extremities the progress of pro-slavery 
legislation had brought the sons of liberty. And yet for a 
white citizen of the North to shoot a Southerner who was 
forcibly dragging him to a tobacco, cotton, or rice field for a 
lifetime of unpaid labour and its accompaniments, if it had 
been possible, would have been justified by the entire Nation. 
A black citizen somehow was not the same sort of a citizen, 
and if he had escaped from bondage he was simply property, 
like a strayed mule — in Southern eyes and national law. 
Abolitionists did not see it so; therefore they were political 
and social outlanders. Even among themselves there were 
grades of outlandishness. The non-resistant extremist ought 
to have satisfied the slave-catcher in making his kidnapping 
easy by not resisting him. Phillips proposed to make it as 
dangerous in the instance of the black as the white; but this 
was an unpopular view in Charleston and Richmond; also 
in Boston and New York in the middle of the last century. 

In the IsLsi week of 1852 Phillips wrote a two-column 


obituary of Daniel Webster, who died on the 24th of October. 
Its tenor may be gathered from scattering sentences. 

We are sometimes blamed for our judgments of men whose 
general characters are good. The examples of bad men are 
of little importance. It is the faults of popular idols that are 
dangerous. It does not concern us here whether he was a 
great man. As a whole his life was a failure — he failed to 
impress any great or original idea upon his times — has stood 
on both sides of most national questions — talked against 
slavery up to 1850 without stirring one heart against it, 
and then supported the fatal compromise. In siinple intellect 
no American has ever equalled him, but he contented himself 
with saying common things uncommonly well. He never 
piloted the people into broader and deeper life. He made 
great speeches. He may live in print; Washington, Jefferson, 
Hamilton, Garrison, will live, print or no print. Had he led 
the van of American ideas he would have been tenfold more 
than the President he wished to be. He was fated to live 
long enough to see all the plans of his manhood become 
obsolete ideas, except just those he had abandoned. His 
latest and ablest argument was the duty and rightfulness of 
slave catching! He is mourned in ceiled houses and in the 
marts of trade. Fugitives thank God they have one enemy 
the less. Grant all his merits. The friendless and the 
hunted cannot help rejoicing at his death! 

Phillips answered the objections to radicalism in his annual 
review of the cause's progress in January, 1853, which was 
the dark hour before day. His note is defensive and boldly 
explanatory of adhesion to the abolitionist position and pur- 
poses when the legislation of the country had ranged itself 
in battle array against them. On their own platforms new 
converts were offering advice which lacked the wisdom of 
experience, and showing a zeal that was without knowledge. 


To these he gave the counsel and instruction of a veteran. 
Then he pictured the institution of bondage, as it existed, in 
colours that were as clear and strong as those of an Egyptian 
charnel house. It was no doubt the reverse side of the 
Gobelin tapestry, Avhose fair front was most often kept before 
visitors and authors from the North, but the ragged side 
could be seen by any who cared or dared to find it, or read its 
frequent disclosures in Southern papers. 

We are charged with denunciation when declaring the 
enormity of making merchandise of men — of separating 
families — selling daughters to prostitution — forcing unre- 
quited toil — making torture possible, if not common, 
and death a thing to be welcomed. Prove to me that harsh 
rebuke, indignant denunciation, scathing sarcasm, and piti- 
less ridicule are unjustifiable, any weapon which ever 
broke up the crust of prejudice, roused a slumbering con- 
science, shamed a proud sinner. Our aim is to alter public 
opinion — to induce every one to aid in the abolition of 
slavery. We do not j)lay politics: anti-slavery is no half- 
jest with us. We speak of the dead as of the living. We 
are now out-talked, out- voted. But our words bide their 

He then reviewed the literature of the movement from 
Lundy and Adams to Sumner's last speech and "Uncle Tom's 
Cabin," and vindicated the original methods, which time had 
justified by what had been accomplished despite opposition 
and ceaseless criticism. "If there was no great revolution or 
reformation apparent, no other course could have accom- 
plished these ends. If they had been defeated in Congress, 
the creators of Congress had been enlightened." X ground- 
fire had been smouldering and spreading which needed only a 
breeze to make it blaze. And the wind was rising in the West. 


Soon after, Phillips, speaking in New York, saw no 
hope of a Union without slavery, and no deliverance except 
through the demolition and rebuilding of it or a separation 
of the North and South. Therefore Henry Ward Beecher 
exhibited the greater faith a few minutes later when he said : 

I do not believe that the half of these United States will 
always stand as slaveholding. By all the victories of Chris- 
tianity in the past I am inspired with hope for the future; 
and I have faith in a public sentiment which in spite of 
recreant clergymen, apostate statesmen, venal politicians, 
and trafficking shopmen, shall fall upon this vast and unmiti- 
gated abomination and utterly crush it. I would rather see 
Christianity destroy it in seventy-five years than Mammon 
in fifty and do that which legislation could not do, and which 
the commerce of the country could not do. 

It is not strange that neither the despondent man nor 
the hopeful one saw how the event was to be brought about 
within the next decade. It was a year of discouragement 
and gloom. In Congress there were not over ten out of 
three hundred who would oppose the extension of slavery, 
and fewer still who would attack it in its strongholds. 
President Fillmore could congratulate the Nation that agita- 
tion was subsiding and a general acquiescence in measures 
of peace prevailed. 

Amidst this mutual reassurance and congratulation there 
was a little cloud arising seaward. From the Society of 
Friends in New England a humble request appeared in 
Congress in May, 1852, asking for the repeal of the Fugitive 
Slave Law. Presented by Senator Sumner, it was attacked 
by Senators from Mississippi and Georgia as threatening 
the dissolution of the Union, if its purpose were carried 
out in the repeal of that law. 


It was near the close of the session before Sumner 
could get an opportunity to defend his celebrated thesis 
that "slavery is sectional and freedom national; and that 
the Fugitive Slave x\ct lacks that essential support in 
the public conscience of the states where it is to be en- 
forced which is the life of all law, and without which any 
law must become a dead letter." 

He closed his argument from legal and historical points 
of view with a letter from Washington about the return of 
a fugitive, saying in effect, that he would yield the point 
rather than create any disturbance or uneasy sensations 
in the minds of well-disposed citizens. In this four hours 
of his first elaborate speech in the Senate, Sumner won 
great praise as uttering an emphatic protest against the 
notion that the compromise act was a final settlement of 
agitation about slavery. The mutterings against the 
Fugitive Slave Law and the resistance to its execution in 
the North had at length found a voice in Congress to repeat 
and reenforce the sentiments which abolitionists had been 
disseminating among the people for over thirty years. To 
be sure, the measure advocated received but four votes; 
but the silence had been broken, the lid had been lifted, 
and the kettle was found ready to boil over. The dreaded 
agitation was not subsiding after all. Sumner had only 
to move an amendment to an appropriation bill intended 
to pay the expenses of slave hunters, and the cauldron 
was full of toil and trouble. 

To Phillips the renewal of strife in Congress contained 
the promise of a larger interest in the question at issue, 
which would become national instead of local. Yet he did 
not give up his claim that the reappearance of congressional 


antagonism, interrupted since John Quincy Adams's 
day, was due to Northern sentiment implanted by himself 
and his associates. Not over sanguine about political 
assistance from half a dozen legislators, he did not fail to 
discover the dawn-streaks of a new day in which anti- 
slavery opinion would grow stronger with the law makers. 
This would have its reflex influence with the people who 
got their politics from Congress rather than a lecture plat- 
form. But he kept his faith in this agency and hoped more 
from state action than from the Nation; from the people 
than their chief men. Still, there was hope in what had 
been begun toward renewed agitation in Congress. The 
truce of silence had been broken. 

There was another group of leading men that might 
have been of g-reat service to the cause who were slow to 
endorse it. From his Harvard associates and the company 
of writers who were contributing to American literature 
Phillips soon found that he could expect little immediate 
assistance or sympathy, with two exceptions — Lowell 
and Whittier.. 

Lowell, from his college days, had strong humanitarian 
leanings. His note-book for the year of his graduation, 
1838, is full of passages about slavery, and a letter com- 
miserating factory workers in England ends with the remark, 
"The abolitionists are the only ones with whom I sympa- 
thize of present parties." As with Phillips, this sympathy 
was strengthened by the encouragement of a young woman 
who eventually became his wife. Also a certain " Band " 
of kindred spirits seconded and supported this philanthropic 
influence. By 1840 Lowell was heartily committed to a 
cause which he had derided in his class poem two years 


before in common with several other 'isms. In November 
of this year he was a member of an anti-slavery convention 
in Boston, and from this time the slavery cjucstion appears 
frequently in his poems and letters. He even exhorts a 
Virginia classmate to join the abolition ranks. It is to be 
noted, however, that the poet never belonged to the extreme 
wing of the radicals, and in the years when he was corre- 
sponding editor of the Anti-slavery Standard he did not 
entirely satisfy some of the more rigid managers in the 
abuse they wished heaped upon slaveholders, whom he con- 
sidered human. Yet his moderation reached some readers 
who had no liking for violent assaults upon their mistaken 
countrymen. Worn with the drudgery of fortnightly 
contributions, he wrote in 1850 that he had decided to 
turn for a time from politics to poetry, and two years later 
his official connection with the Standard had ceased. 

With his growth as a professional man of letters and upon 
a larger acquaintance with the guild, following his appoint- 
ment as a professor in Harvard, his early zeal became 
dissipated in the stress of his new occupation. Still, the 
primitive enthusiasm of the Biglow Papers period had not 
vanished so much as it had settled into an abiding principle 
of humane sympathy, which was to be enshrined in some 
of the noblest poems in our literature. As early as 1844 
he had written the lines which Phillips never tired of re- 
peating : 

" Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne — 
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim 

Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above 

His own." 


Through all the poems of war time, culminating in the 
Commemoration Ode of 1865, runs the same lofty patriotism, 
a broader stream from the fountain which bubbled noisily 
in the decade of ferment and unrest. 

The support which Whittier gave to anti-slavery illustrates 
the differences of method that were employed by abolition- 
ists. As a young journalist, inclined to politics, he was 
not at first greatly interested in this reform beyond others, 
all of which he regarded as tokens of a moral revolution 
that was setting in. Yet as a philanthropic movement its 
claim at length began to assert itself in the growth of public 
sentiment. Moreover, Garrison by a strong appeal aroused 
him to serious consideration of what he might accomplish 
for the cause. Still, he did not deem it needful to follow 
the leader in his uncompromising demands, nor to employ 
the severity of his language, nor even to join the "Boston 
clique." As a natural politician, who had already been 
of service at the State House, he had a practical sense of the 
value of time in all important changes, and of the gradual 
preparation of public opinion, and of its effective expression 
at the polls. By 1833, however, he was sufficiently committed 
to the cause to write a tract on Abolition as the Remedy of 
Slavery, urging its safety and justice, and that free labour 
would be more advantageous to the planter than slave 
labour. It was a moderate and reasonable argument, 
but it did not fail to stir up Southern resentment that any 
word should be spoken against the domestic institution 
of the section. 

He had not been without political ambitions, but when 
he went as a delegate from Massachusetts to Philadelphia 
at the founding of the American Anti-slavery society he 


necessarily broke with politics and with the journalism 
which was its ally. Although he continued to write as a 
contributor or editor for several papers, they were not 
organs of the two great existing parties. Indeed, his health 
during the period of the great contest did not allow him 
to be in the thick of the fight. An occasional article or a 
stirring poem, struck off when the day permitted, amounted 
to much in twenty years, but to little month by month. 
Yet these occasional efforts did good service by their sin- 
cerity and inoffensive presentation of a cause which was 
oftener associated with narrow methods and violent words. 
Later, the poet himself cared more for the reformatory 
quality of his verse than for its artistic form, which 
was not so severely judged in those stirring times as 

As a politician who had a keen sense of values he may be re- 
garded as a connecting link between the theoretical aboli- 
tionism of the early period and the practical emancipation 
through legislation of the final period. The first agitation was 
needful in order to bring about the methods which are 
essential to lasting reform in a republic. Whittier must have 
the credit of pointing his radical companions to the legiti- 
mate way in which their high purpose could finally be ac- 
complished. On the other hand, he could not have had 
reasonable hopes of the result by the customary political 
management. The plow and the harrow were needed in the 
springtime, and the sowing of the seed. The autumn 
brought its own ways of gathering the harvest. Between, 
something was to be done which looked backward and 
forward ; and Whittier, more than any other man of letters, 
stood for that intermediate time and work. 


From the literary coterie that gave Boston and its vicinity 
distinction leading abolitionists did not fail to observe that 
they received little encouragement at first. Longfellow 
was occupied with introducing Old World literatures to 
New England and the Nation ; Emerson was absorbed in a 
philosophy with which he was startling his orthodox neigh- 
bourhood and parts adjacent; Hawthorne was musing on 
the severities of his ancestors in the Bay Province more 
than on those of the South; Holmes was busy with his 
medical lectures and Harvard anniversary poems, and 
confining: his attention within the rim of the Boston Circle. 
Thoreau, indeed, added to the rest of his eccentricities, as 
they were reckoned, protests against human bondage, and 
upbraided a zeal for Kansas which he thought should 
have been turned against home indifference for the slave. 
After a time, when the war broke out, all of this company who 
were then living awoke to the importance of the issue which 
had precipitated strife, and fell in with its requirements 
with various degrees of assent and devotion; as did the 
chief men of the city, their associates. The same can be said 
of men of letters in New York and other Northern cities. 



ACCORDING to the Missouri Compromise of 1820 
slavery was to be forever excluded from the North- 
west Territories. In 1854 an attempt was made to cancel 
this agreement. Simultaneously, raiders from Missouri 
undertook to make Kansas a slave state. Free Soilers in 
Congress protested, and petitions flowed in from the entire 
North against the violation of a sacred pledge. 

It is of great interest to note the effect upon abolitionists 
of this sudden awakening of Northern people. It was a 
surprise party, disturbing the family somewhat. Phillips did 
not pay much attention to the cause of it — Kansas troubles — 
being occupied with the arrest of Anthony Burns and his 
rendition to slavery under a guard of Massachusetts militia. 
For appealing to citizens to prevent this, he and Theodore 
Parker were indicted by the Grand Jury for *' obstructing 
the process of the United States" in slave catching, but noth- 
ing came of it. 

Evidently the great Northern awakening did not appeal 
to him. For one thing, it had been started at the political 
centre of the country and by men who were reckoned as 
politicians, if they were not statesmen. They had appealed 



to their constituents, instead of petitions coming from the 
people to their representatives in Congress, as had hitherto 
been the custom. Reform was not proceeding in the normal 
direction. A current had suddenly set in from the other pole. 
It started before its time, and threatened to make agitation 
useless. Besides, anything savouring of political methods 
or action in this abolition reform had been decried from the 
first by its pioneers. Therefore it is not strange that they 
looked askance at the crowd that all at once came flocking 
in their direction. An extremist wrote Phillips from 
*'Cornville" deploring his mild toleration of political action. 

Of course, there was the consolatory reflection that the way 
had been prepared for the new-comers by the labours of thirty 
years, and that the seed for this up-springing wheat had been 
sown long before, and had been lying in an apparent death, 
which was the condition of its life when the winter was over. 
But even this comforting assurance was not offered yet. 

Instead, in a lecture in Tremont Temple in the last week 
of 1854 on the Character and Extent of Anti-slavery Feel- 
ing in New England, Phillips spoke in a strain of high 
faith in the future rather than in any immediate prospect 
for the present. " It is a question of free speech, all that the 
South has not beaten us in during its successive stages of 
political aggression — the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, 
Louisiana and Texas, the compromise measures of 1850, 
and the abolition of the Missouri Compromise." But this 
last measure, which had aroused the North, he passed by 
in silence, keeping to his home theme of the North leagued 
with the South in perpetuating the profitable system of 

The most Southern sheet in Boston said of this speech that. 


" Never were the splendid abilities of this most accomplished 
and able fanatic more amply displayed than on this occasion. 
Sentiments most repugnant to the feelings of every patriot 
were absolutely applauded when clothed in the graceful and 
magnificent diction of this anti-slavery Cicero. The gross 
injustice of the matter and the exquisite felicity of the manner, 
topics such as the dissolution of the Union and destruction 
of the Constitution, were dwelt upon with such unparalleled 
force and beauty that disapprobation of the subject was 
lost and overwhelmed in admiration of the man. The 
vast hall rang again and again to rounds of enthusiastic 
applause. Great as has been the change since 1850, it is 
insufficient to explain the favour with which this abolition 
oration was received by an audience such as is seldom col- 
lected, even in this city." 

In March of the next year, 1855, Phillips gave evidence of 
what he might have attained in the legal profession by an 
extended argument before the Committee on Federal Rela- 
tions of the Massachusetts Legislature in support of petitions 
that had been presented for the removal of Judge Loring, 
who had issued the warrant to arrest Anthony Burns and was 
responsible, Phillips held, for his return to slavery. 

A Commissioner of humane and just instincts would be 
careful to remember that he was both Judge and Jury. No 
jury would have sent Burns back to his master. The state 
declares that the fugitive is constitutionally entitled to a jury 
trial. Mr. Webster once prepared an amendment to the act 
of Congress securing jury trial. A judge who consents to 
act at all as Slave Commissioner should be removed from 
office. The hunting of slaves, then, is a sufficient cause for 
removal from a Massachusetts bench. For the sake of 
Justice, in the name of Humanity, we claim his removal. 


This argument, occupying fifteen newspaper columns, 
closed with an appeal worthy of the orator's best perorations/ 
His narration of circumstances and citation of authorities 
were skilfully managed, but in closing he massed all their 
weight and force in an address to the legislators that would 
have moved a jury to let any bondman go free. " It is in your 
power to-day to redeem the judiciary of Massachusetts from 
the disgrace which this case has flung upon it. You will 
render it impossible that any but unprincipled and shameless 
men shall aid in the enforcement of a wicked clause in 
the Constitution." A few days later, at a third hearing, 
Phillips went over the ground again in reply to Mr. R. H. 
Dana, Jr.'s, review of the case, in a speech an hour in length. 
His recapitulation was spoken of as especially eloquent and 
powerful, and was listened to with profound attention. He 
said : " Judge Story and Professor Greenleaf used to point 
to the Bible and say to the students, * Gentlemen, that book 
is the origin of all law, and its foundation. When you find 
a law which conflicts with that, it is no law!'" He then 
pointed out that the principles which the people held in their 
hearts had been defied by judges, until one had overstepped 
the limit, who, having had fair warning, should be removed 
for the execution of a law which was offensive to the majority 
of the Commonwealth. 

Those who heard these arguments before the " Great and 
General Court " knew that they were not the extravagances 
of a wild fanatic. But some of them must have speculated 
on a possible career at bar and bench and in halls of legis- 
lation that had been surrendered for a cause unpopular and 

^Afterward included in " Speeches, Lectures, and Addresses," First Series, p. 154. 


By this reproof of a judge, who, as Slave Commissioner, 
had returned the last fugitive to be remanded to slavery from 
Massachusetts, the state had nullified the Fugitive Slave Law 
in all its progressive stages. And then it had the audacity 
to pass an " Act to protect the rights and liberties of the people 
of the Commonwealth " — without respect to their complex- 
ion. The Latimer case had secured a Personal Liberty Bill 
forbidding officers henceforward to take and detain fugitives; 
and now the law was made to match the Compromise of 1850. 
Habeas corpus was secured; burden of proof thrown upon 
the pursuer; issuing a warrant, assisting the claimant, or 
presiding at trial were fatal to official and professional careers. 
Counsel was to be furnished; police, sherifi's, jailors, and 
troops were to keep their hands off. Phillips led in presenting 
and supporting this bill, which was vetoed by the Governor, 
but passed by the Legislature over his veto on May 21st, the 
vote standing in the Senate^ thirty-two for, to three against; 
in the House two hundred and twenty-nine to seventy-six. 
Thus did the Bay state defy the South and the Constitution. 

Phillips's third argument before legislative committees 
within a month was a long one on the abolition of capital 
punishment. Of the two common pleas in its favour he 
answered the first — to restrain the murderer from repeating 
the offence — by saying that a prison will do that ; and the 
second — hanging a man for an example, as the forefathers 
did on the Common — loses its force because it is now done 
within prison walls in comparative privacy. The entire 
argument bristles with historical citation and legal learning. 
In closing, he enumerated barbarous practices that have 
given place to others more merciful — crucifixion, impaling, 
tearing by horses and hot pincers, the rack, the stake. 


*' Now we ask you to abolish the gallows. It is only one step 
further in the same direction. Take it because the civilized 
world is taking it, in many quarters! Take it because it is 
well to try experiments for humanity, and this is a favourable 
community to try them in." 

As president of the New England Anti-slavery Convention 
(since June, 1847,) he becomes retrospective at its May 
meeting, saying : 

For the twenty years these meetings have been held 
in the city of Boston no clergyman, no officer of the state, no 
man of any social standing or position of influence, has stood 
on this platform, Henry Wilson excepted — the first ray of 
light breaking over the mountains. Great men would have 
come in and swamped us by the magnificence of their aid 
long ago if slavery had left them any soul. 

The next day he opened a long speech in the same strain 
with the words : " Mr. Chairman — Our distinctive policy is 
the necessity of a dissolution of the American Union, in order 
to abolish slavery. It is the one essential point of the anti- 
slavery movement out of which conduct and purpose and 
system must grow. " For an hour he proceeded in his ampli- 
fication of this proposition, showing why and how it should 
be done. " Dissolution was not an uncommon problem. 
The fathers dissolved two Unions. We can dissolve another 
by taking Massachusetts out. South Carolina threaten to 
leave the Union ! Why, she cannot walk ! She has not yet 
stood alone! Nobody will go out unless we go." 

The value of these significant fragments is to show that the 
only remedy for the chronic malady appeared to him to be in 
amputation, six years before it was begun at the other end 
of the body politic in the South. But no man was prophet 


enough to see how Liberty and Union, in a fuller sense than 
was contemplated by Webster, was to be accomplished. 

As examples of persuasive and convincing speech, and all 
the more because one-half his audiences did not accept their 
doctrines, these arguments stand in their unabridged ful- 
ness as models of popular exposition. They read well even 
now. That they were spoken well, contemporary testimony 
affirms by the notes of applause in the reports of them which 
mark the responses of throngs that were by no means sym- 
pathetic before or after his discourse. Built upon lines of 
strong logic, they were enlivened by frequent anecdote, 
illustrated by historical examples, and varied by question 
and answer, personal allusion, pointed reference and startling 
assertion. The effects of every rhetorical device are secured 
without the appearance of art. It is the sparkling conversa- 
tion of a full mind, before a full house, on a subject of which 
the speaker's heart is full. 

An interesting note occurs in remarks at a Fourth of July 
celebration at Framingham, which Hon. Henry Wilson 
had been invited to attend, but owing to other engagements 
he had sent a letter instead, deprecating mutual criticism 
and reproach in the working for a common cause. To this 
Phillips put in a demurrer, to the effect that criticism of 
action or principle is a great benefit, securing the cause 
against the possibility of being diverted out of its proper 

Abolitionism is not like an old and organized political 
party, but made up of men who think each one for himself, 
who must welcome criticism even from their associates. 
Principles are to be maintained, whatever becomes of men. 
When the time comes that the advocates of anv reform cease 


to criticize each other its efficiency is gone. Harmony and 
peace are not essential. Where confederates come in, 
criticism necessarily follows. If harmony is desired, it will be 
found in political parties where men's heads are cut off to 
make them all of the same regulation stature. Not so 
among independent reformers. 

This announcement will explain some occurrences which 
threatened to shatter a loose organization a dozen times 
in the course of one generation. It was their cordial agree- 
ment to a guerilla warfare that kept various independents 
within sight of an occasional rallying place where they 
met, each one with his own musket, rifle, club, or fists, 
and in regimentals as unlike as Continental buff and blue, 
Quaker drab, and Indian toggery. In only one respect 
did they agree — that slavery must be abolished. Exactly 
how, was a question not so clear or so unanimously settled 
In the early 'fifties, disunion, by the withdrawal of the voter 
and politics, the separation of one state and another from 
the Union, and finally of the entire North from the South, 
appears to have been the programme, so far as it was formu- 
lated and endorsed. But immediate work and endeavour 
was by the individual citizen with his neighbour, from 
house to house, from village to village, county to county, 
city to city, state to state. 

An example of this method is seen in one of Phillips's 
" abolitionizing trips," as his wife called them. Starting from 
home on November 20, 1854, he spoke in Lee that eve- 
ning and on successive evenings as follows: Utica, Pen Yan, 
Rochester, Syracuse, Rome, Syracuse again, Hamilton, C. W., 
Detroit, Cleveland, Zanesville, Cincinnati, Elmira, Bing- 
hamton, Middletown, and three evenings in Philadelphia, 


ending December 10th. In this circuit of three weeks 
he made a dozen and a half speeches, which varied as the 
places and with the remarkable diversity which was a 
part of his oratorical skill; but the theme was always the 
same and as constant as his single purpose. Ten or 
twenty thousand persons meantime heard a voice they 
would not soon forget, and words to be remembered for 
years, and saw a presence that was photographed upon 
their vision, intent and fascinated as by a Periclean statue 
living and thinking and speaking before them, bearing 
them far away from their environment and out of their 
habitudes of life and thought. 

It might be inferred that this one man alone sowed seeds 
that would spring up abundantly when the season should 
come. The temptation must have been great to attribute 
a new movement in political circles at this time to the 
agitation of thirty previous years. But as yet there was 
little boasting. On the contrary, it seemed to the leaders 
that no great advantage had been won beyond free speech 
and a doubtful difficulty thenceforward in returning fugitives 
to the South from Boston. Even men of good will toward 
abolition said. What care we about it ? The Constitution, 
the Party, the Church are against us. Such half-hearted 
friends Phillips addressed at a celebration not far from 
Plymouth Rock in August of this year, 1855, telling them 
to stand "clear of party politics, of churches that were not 
disgracefully anti-slavery, and not to vote under a Consti- 
tution that protected the slave-catcher." Salmon P. Chase 
had just asked Dartmouth students to pledge themselves 
to " no slavery — outside the slave states ! " " No slavery 
in those states was the only effective principle, and 


conscience the only living power against the institution," 
was Phillips's reply. 

One thing upon which he congratulated himself and his 
co-workers was the admission of coloured children to the 
schools of Boston, a movement which was begun by himself 
and a few others petitioning the city government; and that 
had been kept up until it reached the state Legislature 
fourteen years later and was made law in 1854. Then 
the city followed the state's example. At the cele- 
bration of this event by a meeting on the 17th of December 
Phillips remarked that it was one of those rare days in 
the history of a hard struggle when there was something 
palpable to rejoice in. Men were always asking, What 
has the anti-slavery agitation done ? He was glad they 
had this answer to make now, It has opened the schools! 
Without this agitation they would never have been opened. 
The best thing learned by these struggles is, how to prepare 
for another. They were in for the war. He should never 
think Massachusetts a fit state to live in until he saw one 
man, at least, as black as the ace of spades, a graduate of 
Harvard College. He did not go for annexing territory 
only, but all sorts of races and all sorts of customs. 

Beyond this there is little congratulation. Closing the 
year with a speech at a dinner of the Pilgrim Society at 
Plymouth, he remarked that — 

What the Puritans gave the world was not so much new 
truth as action. They planted, and the oak is the answer 
to all criticism. They are to be regarded in their possibili- 
ties. If Elder Brewster could appear to-day he would not 
be contented with the five points of Calvin. He would add 
to his creed the Maine Liquor Law, the Underground Railway, 


and the thousand Sharpe's Rifles, addressed " Kansas " and 
labelled "Books." To be as good as our fathers, we must 
be better. Plymouth Rock underlies all America. It 
cropped out at Bunker Hill, at the Declaration of Independ- 
ence; Lovejoy rested his musket upon it when they would 
not let him print at Alton and said, " Death or free speech! " 
The Pilgrims said death rather than the compromise of Eliza- 
beth. They voted that each man should build his own house. 
So, now; each one his own mental house, without having 
too much uniformity in the architecture and keeping clear 
of shams and delusion, smothering phrases and compromises. 

This final sentence is most characteristic of Phillips. 
There was no conformity in his mental structure to that 
of other men of his time, nor did he make any apology for 
his idiosyncrasy. He was never blind to shams, nor open 
to suggestions of compromise, nor did he ever soften words 
that could expose and brand a popular delusion. In his 
desperate warfare he asked no quarter, and he certainly 
gave none. Yet he never descended to low abuse nor used 
language that was beneath Ciceronian invective. His spear 
was like Ithuriel's, his sword like the Saracen's, his shield 
unblurred, his armour radiant, and a knightly spirit per- 
vaded all his strife. 




HE Kansas struggle between Eastern Immigrants 
and Missouri raiders did not divert Phillips's atten- 
tion from the greater contest for general emancipation. 
At first he was inclined to be supercilious about the minor 
issue of territorial occupation, saying that "Yankees had 
gone into a half-barbarous West to dispute their way inch 
by inch with the bowie knives and revolvers of vagabonds. 
What are the squabbles around the ballot-boxes of Kansas ? " 
Reform was needed at the centres, where the root of the evil 
is more than on the outskirts, and by the agency of legisla- 
tures and the judiciary rather than by common politics and 

It is in this memorable year that the efficiency of Phillips's 
methods begins to get clearer, and to bridge over the dark 
chasm between his steadfast purpose and its accomplish- 
ment. First, he was for educating the individual and the 
community into the sense of an evil and the wish to remove 
it, in some way which would be discovered when the public 
conscience should be sufficiently awakened. Next, for 
disunion by withdrawal and separation of one state and 
another. This was to be hastened by checkmating the Gov- 
ernment through an anti-slavery judiciary elected by the 



people. But this consummation must have appeared 
far off. However, it was something to have devised a 
possible way. 

One disadvantage to extreme abolitionists in the score 
of years hitherto had been the destructive policy they felt 
obliged to advocate. Delenda est Carthago had been their 
battle cry; but how to destroy it, and what to build on its 
ruins, were equally indefinite visions. They held that it 
was first of all necessary to destroy; but this is always an 
unpopular process — in this instance exceedingly unpopular 
in the South, and in much of the North as well. If to the 
latter section it seemed a practicable or possible way to pull 
down and uproot an evil that from Colonial days had not 
ceased to be national in various degrees, it is^doubtful if it 
would have been regarded with favour for a moment, except 
by the little band of abolitionists. Certainly, the destruction 
of slavery was not the purpose of the Northern rising in 1861. 
If in addition to a definite destructive method, the reformers 
could have shown a constructive plan, the question would 
have been more than half settled. But if they could have 
done this, their wisdom would have surpassed the teachings 
of experience during the forty years in which the Nation 
afterward wandered in the wilderness of reconstruction. 
It was enough for the early pioneers to determine to go 
forward. It might not be in the straightest line, but it was 
in the right direction. In any case, it was not sitting down 
in despair. Agitation was better than that. Doubt, 
however, was still brooding over one of the leaders, despite 
the open struggle for freedom in Kansas. 

In what may be regarded as his annual report of progress 
— the customary address at the May anniversary of the 


New England Society, Phillips was not jubilant. He 
doubted if there was public principle enough to save the 
experiment of civil government. Ignorance of true liberty 
prevailed and indifference to all but national interests, and 
even to the striking down of Senator Sumner, and to making 
a protest by the best of the city — the milk-and-water men 
that did not dare offend the South. "We, at least, can 
protest. When this generation is gone and a better one 
come, they will be glad to trace through us the line that 
connects them with an ever living protest against infamous 
tyranny. It is a great thing to keep alive a protest. The 
anti-slavery cause does not seem to move; like the shadow 
on the dial you cannot see it move, but it gets to twelve 
o'clock at last." 

In his inmost heart Phillips did not think that the night 
had wholly passed. If there were dawn-streaks, there 
was a cloud-bank of materialism in the East; and the red 
and lowering sky in the West of yesterday was not a promise 
of fair weather. It was from a prairie fire on the plains 
of Kansas. 

If Phillips could upbraid the half-hearted Northern 
denunciations of the assault upon Sumner by Brooks, he 
had just then no words strong enough for the Southern 
adulations of the outrage which were published in the 
majority of pro-slavery papers, nor for the chivalry of the 
South which sent the assassin gold-headed canes and silver 
plate with its endorsement of his cowardly and brutal attack 
upon an unarmed man, writing at his desk. A Faneuil 
Hall indignation meeting was addressed by "eminent 
speakers of all political parties." The most distinguished 
speaker of Boston, and of the Nation, being of no political 


party, was not invited. His sentiments, if not his language, 
must therefore be gathered from the anniversary speech 
three days later, the drift of which has been noted. In- 
wardly, he regarded the disgraceful attack upon the Senator 
as a surrender by slaveocracy of argument and a resort to 
club and knife, and therefore one step downward toward 
its final doom. Undoubtedly it hastened this event with 
the North at large. 

By the Fourth of July he was ready to take a broad view 
of the situation in 1856, and out of the general gloom to 
extract a spark of light. On the Southern side every barrier 
to the extension of slavery in the Southwest had been thrown 
down : the Northwest, once consecrated to freedom, had been 
divided, and Kansas had been overrun by armed invaders 
backed by the Administration, who had driven Northern 
settlers from their farms and ballot-boxes. Nebraska would 
be the next ground to be occupied. In Congress, knock- 
down arguments had displaced the logic of Calhoun, while 
his prophecy of disunion was often repeated. This threat 
did not displease extremists at the North, although they did 
not take much stock in it. 

Phillips had more hope in the formation and trend of the 
Republican party, because it was a strictly sectional party. 
Whigs, and especially Democrats, had belonged to the 
Southern states as well as the Northern. No Republican 
contingent could exist in slave states; and in the division of 
parties he saw the beginning of separation. He did not call 
the Republican an anti-slavery party; it had not risen to 
that, he said. But he hailed it as a sign — a little crack in 
the iceberg. In that light, recent political movements were 
a gain — a great gain — which had come unexpectedly early. 


Aside from this, he regarded it as an absurdity. It was 
agitating for a poHtical result when the times demanded 

In placing moral agencies before political, Phillips saw 
in the success of the latter nothing beyond the restriction of 
slavery to the states it already occupied, and with its bonds 
tightened by reason of this bargain for limitation. But he 
also saw, with everybody else, that it was not to be confined 
to its worn-out stamping ground, nor was the political equi- 
librium of power to be destroyed by giving the North an 
equal advantage with the South. This had never been and 
was never intended to be allowed. "Disunion first!" said 
the Slave Power. 

The encroachments of politics upon the anti-slavery field 
in the form of the new Republican party was on Mr. Phillips's 
mind at the August anniversary of West India Emancipation, 
a day which had been observed off and on for twenty-two 
years. He valued politics for the discussion raised, more 
than for the men it put in office. The canvass was worth 
a hundredfold more than the election. 

Two months later the opinion of the South with regard to 
Free Soilers was uttered by Preston S. Brooks on the occa- 
sion of receiving canes and goblets from his constituents in 
token of his bravery in striking down Sumner. "I hate 
them [Free Soilers] just as much as I hate abolitionists; nay, 
worse. I hate them worse than I hate the rattlesnake; for 
unlike it they give no warning of their approach, and seek 
to conceal their objects." And, further on, he overmatched 
the rankest Garrisonian: "The only mode of meeting the 
present issue is, just to tear the Constitution of the United 
States, trample it underfoot, and form a Southern confeder- 


acy, every state of which will be a slave-holding state." 
[Loud and prolonged cheers.] The infant party was having 
hard usage from the tips of the right and left wings of the bird 
of freedom. However, it was getting beaten into shape and 
vigour for sundry efforts of its own in a similar direction. 
And so the war of words went on until the election of James 
Buchanan, which in South Carolina w^as regarded as 
" emphatically a Southern victory — fought on Southern 
grounds. . . . The Constitution reigns supreme . 
and the South will rule the Union." "Through one more 
administration," should have been added; "and then" — 
but prophesying w^as unsafe, although there had been much 
of it for many years and with ominous agreement North 
and South. 

Phillips closed the addresses of the year with a short speech 
in New York at a woman's convention in which he uttered 
some historical and social generalities, and advocated more 
education and the franchise, if women were to be taxed. 
He also lectured in Detroit for the third time, on the 
" Philosophy of Reform." The press of the city agreed in 
admiring his oratory, but questioned its useful tendency. 
The reign of conservatism had been disturbed by his coming, 
and " Republicanism, though far from being anti-slavery, 
had opened many eyes to see the light." This evidently 
had been the first advantage which it had brought to the 
radicals, as the abolitionists were sometimes called; and 
generally they were willing to accord this revealing power to 
a growing political movement that was spreading along the 
Northern border. But it was not after their own hearts by 
any means. It did not go far enough. ♦ 

As for Phillips himself, his idealism allowed him to take little 


comfort in the progress of any movement in his direction, 
since he always kept so great a distance between himself 
and the following host. To be just to him it should be said, 
that his remote and high standpoint was taken at the outset 
of his career, and for thirty years any approach toward his 
position by any party whose vote was worth counting was as 
slight as that of the earth toward the sun in the predicted 
swallowing up of the one by the other. At last there was an 
apparent absorption, so sudden that the radical had hardly 
time to realize it; but through all his fighting years he had 
little encouragement, on account of his discouraging distance 
from the army he was beckoning on. If some of the wild- 
eyed thought they had almost reached his standard, they 
presently discovered him at the end of its forecast shadow 
seemingly planting another. But it was always the same 
that he set up at the beginning of his crusade — the stars, 
without the stripes of the national ensign. These last, he 
used to say, represented its legalized bondage. 



FANEUIL HALL, on the second day of 1857, must have 
presented a singular spectacle to conservative Boston- 
ians. A chosen four hundred abolitionists assembled at a 
dinner to celebrate the founding of the Massachusetts Anti- 
slavery Society twenty-five years before. Mr. Garrison began 
the after-dinner speaking by reviewing the growth of the 
movement from colonial societies and later ones looking 
toward emancipation in some indefinite period, and the 
subsequent declaration for immediate emancipation promul- 
gated in Baltimore in 1829, followed by the publication 
of the Liberator, in Boston, January 1, 1831. He spoke of 
the organization of two thousand societies in the next decade 
before the unhappy divisions of 1840 upon the woman ques- 
tion, from which the cause had never recovered. Never- 
theless, there was occasion for rejoicing in view of the 
wonderful progress that had been made, as would be shown 
by the speakers that were to follow. The only one whose 
remarks can be noticed here was Wendell Phillips, and 
the substance only of these. 

He insisted that the abolition movement had been one of 
education, revealing the state to itself. While politics had 



advanced, it was still on the defensive; but abolitionism 
was aggressive, not apologizing, nor like congressmen, 
trying to explain its position. . Massachusetts should be 
made too hot for slaveholders and doughfaces to tread 
her soil. 

The chief note of the new year was not congratulation 
but disunion. The Slave Power, South and North, had 
won the country for its purposes in electing Buchanan; 
there was little or nothing to hope from the defeated Repub- 
lican party; its chief speaker had been stricken down in 
the Senate Chamber; its fight for freedom in Kansas was 
uncertain, and if victorious would not touch slavery in its 
own states. The disunion threats which extremists in the 
South had made in case Fremont were elected were now 
echoed at the other end of the coast line when a Disunion 
Convention was held in Worcester on January 15, 1857, 
in reply to a call " to consider the practicability, probability, 
and expediency of a separation between the free and slave 
states." Letters from Amasa Walker, Henry Wilson, 
Theodore Parker, and Joshua R. Giddings were represen- 
tative of as many personal views of the question. Senator 
Wilson wished to hold the Union together in order to protect 
the territories from the encroachments of slavery and to 
prepare the way for peaceful emancipation. Parker believed 
that the question would have to be settled by bloodshed. 
Giddings fell back upon the statement that "whenever any 
form of government becomes destructive of the ends for 
which it was formed it is the right of the people to alter 
or abolish it, and institute a new government," as the 
fathers of the Republic had done. 

Phillips made his answer upon the platform as usual: 


He was no worshipper of a Union which had merely pre- 
served the peace between thirty-one states. " It had pro- 
duced wealth but not men — greater than Daniel Webster, 
Caleb Gushing, and Franklin Pierce; fair weather sailors 
till the Kansas storm, and now men are skulking into harbour 
for fear of being sunk! Free speech endangers the Govern- 
ment! Then the sooner it goes to pieces the better. The 
Union has made slavery triumphant and has brought the 
country to a lower point than the lowest in English history 
— when Gromwell put his military boot on the speaker's 
mace in the House of Gommons — in the barbarism of the 
assault on Sumner, mildly rebuked by the North and 
applauded by the South. Take away Northern sympathy 
and the South will set about getting a government, and 
anarchy will not result." It must have seemed to the iron- 
clad listener — if there could be such so long as Phillips 
was speaking — that he failed to show how slavery would 
necessarily disappear after the Union between the North 
and South should be dissolved. Disunion was advocated 
by Southern extremists for the very purpose of continuing 
and extending slavery undisturbed and unrestricted. It 
was the Union that still kept the bane within bounds, and 
a Northern confederacy w^ould not of necessity hold all 
the territories free. 

In 1857 the Union was not sure of a free Kansas. With 
two independent confederacies, the war which w^as begun 
there in 1856 might not have been delayed five years, as it 
was, before it broke out between two sections of one country. 
But abolition by force and arms was not a part of the aboli- 
tionists' purpose. The leaders were still holding steadfastly 
to their hope of aw^akening the Nation's conscience, and so 


changing its attitude toward an inherited evil that in some 
other way it would purge itself of the taint and corruption. 
Still, the way itself was not clear. Even the withdrawal 
of one state or several would give others more satisfaction 
than mortification. Therefore, Northern disunionists, while 
washing their hands of complicity in a national crime, 
were losing their hold upon the best hope and way of keeping 
it within present limits and possibly of exterminating it, 
if it became unbearable in its arrogance. Indeed, recent 
demands and encroachments were so fast hastening oppo- 
sition to it that the South feared the result of the campaign 
of 1860, and foresaw plainly the end of their domination. 
Accordingly, they made the most of the four remaining 
years in getting ready for disunion in their own favour 
and for their own interest — as their leaders thought, but 
as many of the people did not think. 

Against this meeting and its disunion sentiment there 
were opposing voices, calm and screaming. Sober-minded 
anti-slavery men preferred waiting for the progress of opinion 
and renovation of the Government; while conservative 
or pro-slavery newspapers ran the entire scale from the 
grumblings of caution to the screechings of ridicule. It 
was immediately evident that in Massachusetts a vote for 
withdrawal from the Union would be far from unanimous. 
The general sense of the Commonwealth would have damp- 
ened the zeal of any reformer who had not had cold water 
thrown upon him steadily for twenty years. Hydropathy, 
however, had been a favourite treatment with some radicals 
and a necessity with others — if they got nothing worse 
than a shower of water they were fortunate. More sub- 
stantial and fouler descents sometimes fell. Therefore 


their sublime faith and undiminished effort in the face 
of another rebuff must be placed to their credit as indicating 
the elements of which notable reformers are made. Un- 
daunted, Phillips said: "Cherish these meetings; repeat 
them; sound on in the discussion of this question; let the 
plummet down; try all the formulas of logic; it may be that, 
at last, as in the Arabian story, some fortunate tongue may 
pronounce, accidentally, the magic charm that will make 
the door of the Bastile to fly open." 

President Buchanan's inaugural address voiced the de- 
termination of the slave interest, of which he was the figure- 
head, that every state and territory should have slavery 
within its borders, marking a long governmental stride 
from the constitutional restrictions of 1789, keeping the 
territories free from it forever. Nor was there any possible 
doubt to which alternative this Administration was committed. 
Kansas affairs were an open comment upon its pro-slavery 
bias and intent. 

Two days later, March 6th, the immense weight of the 
judiciary was added to Executive pronouncements. Not 
of the full bench, but of a bare majority committed to the 
policy of the Administration, and who, through Chief 
Justice Taney, rendered the infamous decision in the 
notorious Dred Scott case, by which it was determined 
that a slave taken by his master into a free state and living 
there for years with his consent did not, as had hitherto 
been held, become free, but could be returned to bondage, 
and, inferentially, making every state a slavery-promoting 
or -protecting commonwealth. Incidentally, it produced 
a sentence, attributed to Justice Taney, which was the dis- 
tilled essence of a long document, that "the black man 


has no rights which white men are bound to respect." It 
was regarded as fixing the high -water mark of a series of 
slaveholding aggressions for seven years, beginning with 
the compromises of 1850. 

That PhilHps's voice was heard beyond his own state, 
and that he was a surprise to some, appears from notices 
of lectures in Yonkers, New York, and Waukegan, 111. 
In these places they had supposed that he was "a ferocious 
ranter, a blustering man of words, a bigoted, treasonable, 
self-righteous fanatic, full of caustic bitterness" Instead, 
they found him far from their preconceptions of an agitator; 
" an embodiment of refined sensibilities, calm in temper, 
polished in manner, full of common sense, logical in argu- 
ment, concise and choice in language, a polished scholar and 
a dignified gentleman." While deprecating the principles 
and purposes of abolitionists, the local press generally 
conceded that "all of them were not fools and fanatics, 
but that there were men pure-hearted and noble-minded, 
whom an over-acuteness of moral sensibility may have 
impelled into the ranks." Such an estimate represents 
the general view of a fair-minded journalism, free enough 
from partisan animosity to appreciate qualities inherent 
in the man and the orator, if not able to indorse his doctrine. 

He was now being heard on other than anti-slavery 
topics, as is seen in brief reports of a discourse one Sunday 
in Music Hall, Boston, on a Living and a Dead Christianity, 
relating to the treatment of criminal and perishing classes 
in society, delivered to three thousand listeners. A week 
later he spoke on Temperance. On both occasions the 
halls were crowded. *' Twenty years ago," he said, "you 
had only to enter a hotel to see the character of an American 


gentleman; now you had to go down stairs. Much had 
been gained in twenty years; a drinking Hfe had come to 
be looked upon with disgust, public opinion was the con- 
troUing power in this country; — get the ideas right, and 
the customs will follow." 

On the 26th of May Phillips took up the Dred Scott 
decision at the annual meeting of the New England Society. 

When the Supreme Court lays down a Dred Scott decision 
on the anvil of the American heart, we want an energy and 
fixedness of purpose in that heart which shall shape it into 
a tool that will pierce the very heart of the Union. In 1789 
the Government was launched with the whole territory 
free. At that same moment the devil hovered over Charles- 
ton and dropped a few cotton seeds into the soil. Presto! 
sixty years and the cotton seeds have annihilated the Con- 
stitution, the Revolution, and everything else, and we are 
nothing but a cotton-bag to-day. A generation rolled away 
to 1819 and another struggle, and our fathers yielded up 
half the territory for slavery, half for freedom. Another 
struggle in 1852 — the whole territory for slavery! That 
is the history of the Union. The South had not hardened 
into despotism twenty years ago — was not certain of victory. 
To-day the triumph of the Slave Power is written on the 
forehead of the Government! and that is why the necessity 
of the hour is revolution. There is the law made by the 
Supreme Court, and the North bows to this final interpreter 
of the Constitution. There is no course between submitting 
and rebelling but to say to the people. You must be ready 
for revolution. When they are ready, then you are ready 
for the first attempt to carry that decision into effect by 
refusing to submit to it. Convince Massachusetts men 
that it is not law^ to which they are bowing — that it is 
despotism, and they will not submit. Rebellion ! — it is 
epidemic here. Hancock caught the disease and inoculated 


us all. Remove the state from pro-slavery influences and 
you will see her true character. 

On the following Fourth of July he uttered once more 
his independent sentiments in a grove meeting, to the effect 
that abolitionism, like the grove meeting, had no roof, 
with no institution or party to serve — a John the Baptist 
in the desert to awaken conscience and stir thought, to 
make the North love liberty, to make a highway for the 
future to walk over to triumph. 

With these utterances there is also an abundance of 
criticism bestowed upon party leaders, from Banks in the 
state to Wilson in Congress; but their usefulness is admitted, 
and, despite their partial service, their education to higher 
usefulness is hoped for. Furthermore, there is more than 
a suspicion that the purpose which Phillips and his friends 
had been labouring to accomplish might be effected, if at 
all, by the imperfect, half-way measures of political action. 
But not immediately. For in the call for a Northern dis- 
union convention, issued four days later, July 8th, it was 
printed: "From mere Politics there is little to be expected. 
The Slave Power has always carried its measures and 
always will. The attitude of Republican leaders is now 
one of timidity and compromise, though the mass of voters 
in many states is becoming more radically anti-slavery." 
To create a united North was the chief hope and dependence. 
Accordingly, three shades of opinion on the subject of 
separation were appealed to: 1. Those who repudiate the 
Constitution as essentially pro-slavery, and hence abjure 
all union under it. %. Those who, not accepting this view 
of it, believe that there can be no permanent union between 
free and slave states. 3. Those who believe in the ultimate 


triumph of Freedom, without disunion, and still approve 
of agitation of the subject to strengthen and consolidate 
the North! ^ 

The customary First of August Emancipation Address 
of Phillips was a skilful appeal for friends in a time 
of need and discouragement from those who were pledged 
for the long war — " between New England and the Caro- 
linas." Massachusetts, he said, was not half so anti-slavery 
as it pretended to be, and therefore all the greater sacrifice 
and labour were demanded. He scored the inconsistency 
of asking the slaveholder whose social position, wealth, 
ease, and future consequence depended upon slavery to 
obey an abstract, rigid rule of right when its advocates 
were so reluctant in its service. Even the pulpit would be 
beggared if it preached radical anti-slavery, and politics was 
in fetters. Public opinion and Democracy were the worst 
of tp-ants; commercial interest needed a resisting force of 
fanaticism to keep it from dulling the heart of the Nation. 
Therefore there was no rest ahead, and the day of agitation 
would never close in clouds of purple and gold. 

It was in this long speech that he turned aside to answer 
the Unitarian clergymen who were "always pecking at him 
because he was Orthodox." He did this by comparing 
the free spirit displayed at a recent Yale Commencement 
with the restraint at Harvard, which he attributed to its 
affiliation with the commercial interests of Boston, and the 
silence they imposed on anti-slavery sentiments was illus- 
trated by the striking out from an oration an inoffensive 
allusion to Kansas. Yale, too, had honoured Charles 

iThis call was signed by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, WendeU Phillips, Daniel Mann, 
William Lloyd Garrison, and F. W. Bird. The financial panic of 1857 prevented the holding 
of the meeting. 


Sumner with a degree before Harvard had remembered 
her son and Senator. It was an ingenious and effective 
method of getting even with "the cloud of Unitarians who 
used to call him the one poor black sheep, the only one 
to represent all the swelling Orthodox sects." In it, also, 
as is to be observed in his recognition of the slaveholders' 
position, he could make allowance for a class of men while 
condemning the system which they inherited ; and though he 
said that he "loved the pavement of his native city as Milton's 
Mammon loved the golden pavement," his broad mind 
admitted the virtues of the South and the West and particu- 
larly of the Northwest, " where they are all young, and, as 
Dr. Johnson said of Scotchmen, you might make something 
of them if caught when young." 

At the Yale Commencement to which he alludes he had 
been invited to deliver the Phi Beta Kappa oration at so 
late a moment that he could not accept unless permitted 
to take for his theme, "The Scholar, in a Republic, Neces- 
sarily an Agitator." Some thought it of doubtful propriety 
to send for such a speaker where so many Southern men 
were likely to be present, but a good opportunity was afforded 
them to see the notorious abolitionist who had been often 
exploited in their newspapers in terms more graphic than 
classic. Nor was he sure to go beyond the license taken 
by sundry recent orators, one of whom had defended duelling. 
His own defence was of his chosen vocation — the Agitator's, 
"whose purpose is to throw the gravest questions upon the 
conscience and intellect of masses, because they are the 
ultimate governors in a republic, and therefore should be 
educated by agitation up to the idea of national and universal 
freedom. If the people do not rule it is because they are 


willing to have politicians rule instead. It is their indolence 
which has allowed the Government to drift toward despotism. 
This is the present danger in a country which is not homo- 
geneous. One-half is seventeen hundred years behind the 
times, where the faggot and tortures rule. Argument only 
is found in an entirely Republican country, and its only 
safety is in agitation, and distrust of politics." 

Whatever doubts had been expressed about the fitness 
of his topic, there were none with respect to the masterly 
way in which he handled it. Reporters wrote to New York 
and Boston journals : " His long practice has made him as 
nearly perfect in the art of eloquence as any other living 
man. We have never seen an audience charmed into a 
more absolute attention than the one which listened for 
an hour and a half. His eloquence has taken the town 
by storm. Much as people had heard about him, they did 
not anticipate so much pure oratory. He is undoubtedly 
the most brilliant man thrown up to celebrity by the abolition 

^An aggrieved Tennesseean graduate protested in the Richmond Enquirer against Mr. 
Phillips's extreme views and President Wolsey's moderate remarks; as also did a corres- 
pondent of the Boston Courier the next week, when a similar oration was delivered by Phillips 
at Brown University, whose former president, Wayland, had inclined to the South side of the 
disturbing question. But the local press gave unstinted praise to the thought, diction, and 
delivery. An outcome of the Yale oration was a letter to President Buchanan on his Kansas 
policy by Professor Silliman and others, which was replied to by the President; to whom 
a rejoinder was sent, signed by most of the Faculty of Yale and the principal clergymen of 
New Haven. 



EARLY in the year 1858 Phillips attempted to stir up 
the flagging zeal and to rouse the failing courage of 
Massachusetts abolitionists by recounting the victories 
they had won. It had been recommended that they be 
indicted, and a certain Governor had urged sending them 
to prison. Instead, they came to the State House, where 
they had obtained one by one everything they had ever 
asked for in removing qualifications from universal freedom. 
Now, they wanted Massachusetts to stand up for her rights 
in Congress and to protect her representative on legal busi- 
ness in South Carolina and to redress the wrong inflicted 
on her Senator Sumner. 

From sundry strictures made on the Republican party 
it was plain that Phillips had little expectation that it would 
follow his suggestions within the next twenty years, but the 
thought of political action was growing more familiar to 
him, and if it could be brought up to abolition standards 
something might be done to produce a catastrophe. If it 
could not uproot an institution, the North might be with- 
drawn from support of slavery and responsibility for it. 
But abolition by Congress, if it were possible, would be 



preceded by disunion. Therefore, the main result must 
have appeared to be hopelessly receding, and the slave 
system to be intrenching itself in its strongholds. This 
would have been still plainer if preparations which were 
being made in its favour had been known to the North 
as they were to the South. But just then Buchanan was 
diverting attention by his message recommending the 
admission of Kansas on the pro-slavery basis of the Lecomp- 
ton constitution, which was " to put a final end to the slavery 
agitation in Congress." This finality had been attempted 
several times already, but never secured. It was not in 
1820, nor again in 1850, and the last experiment in 1858 
was far from quieting. 

Before the month of January was over, the question of 
politics Avas once more introduced into the counsels of the 
old-time abolitionists. Some of the later accessions were 
looking with hope toward the growing Republican organiza- 
tion and its prospects for carrying the next presidential 
election. But Phillips placed no dependence upon the new 
party, nor did he wish his friends to be drawn into it, or 
to be deluded by uncertain, half-way policies and methods. 
He did not deny that a political movement might grow 
out of their own; but other men should inaugurate it. Their 
own mission was still to create public opinion, without which 
all politics is vain. Therefore they must stick to the old 
method — that alone could rightly attack the wrong-doing 
of the whole country. Agitation, as preliminary to politics, 
was their work. It was slow work, — perhaps for generations. 

In all the darkness of their discouraging position three 
faint possibilities had dimly outlined themselves, which 
he stated more definitely in this speech than he had hitherto 


done. First, if in any corner of slave territory there should 
be any considerable rising of slaves, it might inaugurate 
some methods of emancipation. The institution that 
sleeps on the edge of a volcano has doubtful permanence. 
Second, if the South should stamp her iron heel on Kansas, 
the Northwest might light the torch of war, as it was ready 
to do twenty months before but for the timid counsels of 
Republicans in the Fremont campaign. Third, when 
the Northern people are educated to abolish slavery at all 
hazards, and to construe the Constitution to suit themselves 
and to defy it, they may abolish slavery in the Southern 
states by a law of the Union violating all compromises and 
judicial decisions. 

Thus did this man, who had given his hours and his days 
for twenty-three years to thinking and speaking on a mo- 
mentous question, come at last within a few points of the 
way in which it was finally settled four years later " by a 
law of the Union" which repealed all compromises and 
reversed judicial decisions instead of violating them. He 
was also correct when, not knowing that civil war was immi- 
nent, he admitted that this last alternative of overriding 
the Constitution by the will of a reformed public was in 
the natural course of things far away. It is furthermore 
interesting to note that he and his friends either did not 
anticipate or were unwilling to foresee, as contemporary 
publicists did apprehend, that strife was brewing. If 
Phillips had admitted this, as Calhoun and Clay and Webster 
did, he would not have excluded the dire vision from the 
manifold aspects of the question which he was continually 
presenting. His non-resistant principles were not strong 
enough to blind him, although his faith in moral suasion 


was greater than his trust in poHtics or arms. As yet 
his disunion sentiment did not contemplate anything beyond 
peaceable separation. If it had included civil war, he 
would doubtless have turned to some other method of aboli- 
tion. If, however, freedom to the slave could not have been 
secured without war, it is probable that he would have said, 
Let it come. 

An instance of the occasional variety which came into a 
somewhat monotonous career, and of what he could endure 
upon such occasions, is found in a visit to the town of Cort- 
land, New York, in February, where he lectured on " Street 
Life in Europe " on Saturday evening; on " Woman's Rights" 
Sunday forenoon; "Toussaint I'Ouverture" in the after- 
noon, and in the evening on "American Slavery." A 
correspondent wrote: "Such an intellectual treat is rare, 
at least, in the country." No doubt. It would have been 
a great city that would have got so much out of him; but 
trust a country town to exhaust a privilege, and a celebrity. 

The anniversary of the Boston Massacre, considered as 
the dawn of the Revolution, and observed by the town 
for thirteen years as a precursor of the Fourth of July — 
which took its place in 1783 — was revived in 1858 by 
certain coloured persons in honour of the Negro, Crispus 
Attucks, one of the first men to fall by British bullets on 
the night of March 5, 1770. In front of the platform in 
Faneuil Hall were displayed a number of relics and tokens 
recalling the services and sufferings of several coloured men 
in the War for Independence. An excellent occasion was 
afforded for showing that the black race whose cause had 
been espoused deserved some consideration on account 
of what it had done for the freedom of white citizens. 


Several spoke, among them Wendell Phillips. He reminded 
his hearers of the difference between reading history and 
making it ; between imagining • what one would have done 
and springing out of common life and doing it; that though 
Emerson had said the first gun heard round the world 
was that of Concord, the 5th of March, 1770, was when 
the Revolution begun with the populace, where revolution 
always begins; with Crispus Attucks and his four com- 
panions who fell in the affray that made the American 
Revolution something besides talk. It was right to remem- 
ber him, because the coloured man has but one thing to 
remember in his life, that is, slavery. 

There is no race that has not been enslaved at some period 
— Saxon was the mark of slavery for five hundred years. 
So of the Slav and the French race; and none of them 
won freedom by their own sword. The coloured race is 
the only one that has ever yet abolished slavery by the 
sword — in St. Domingo. The villeinage of France and Eng- 
land wore out; so may that of the South. As for his courage, 
the black man may cite Africa's independence for two thou- 
sand years; Egypt and the arts; St. Domingo with the 
sword. In that company he may hold up his head. Or 
nearer home; for the captain of a coloured company was 
the ancestor' of the richest family in Boston, and was rescued 
from imminent death by the devotion of his coloured 
troops, who made it possible for that family to exist to-day. 
They ought to be grateful. And John Hancock in giv- 
ing a banner to coloured men recognized them as citizens 
and soldiers. 

The entire speech was an illustration of the varied re- 
sources which the orator could bring into the service of his 

^The father of Abbott Lawrence. 


constant theme without tiresome repetition. No occasion 
was too insignificant, no occurrence too trifling, no historical 
incident too obscure to be made useful in setting forward 
the work of his life. All the gales might blow and all the 
zephyrs might breathe from every quarter in succession; 
he made them drive or drift him on his steadfast course. 

The doctrine of States Rights has commonly been sup- 
posed to belong chiefly to the South. But Phillips found 
a use for it that matched the extremest view of Southern 
statesmen. This he set forth in a speech in New York 
on a Resolution asserting that, "Whereas, a central des- 
potism exists at Washington whose purpose is to uphold 
and extend slavery; and Whereas, one of the readiest means 
to resist it is the machinery of State Government; therefore, 
Resolved, That we urge the Northern states to assume every 
attribute of unlimited sovereignty for effectual resistance 
to the Slave Power." It was turning the tables on the 
time-honoured dogma of Southern politicians. They had 
not supposed that it could be applied to the North. Its 
perpetual theme was the Union and the Nation. All at 
once this agitator had discovered that State Sovereignty 
existed north of Mason and Dixon's line, and that the 
Southern sword, which was always threatening to cleave 
asunder the Union, had a double edge. This the South 
had held over the united Nation from time to time; now 
he attempts to put it into the grasp of the new Northern 
party, which he admits is the prominent representative of 
civil resistance to slavery; but which "commits the capital 
mistake of letting the enemy choose when and how to fight, 
which is half the battle." He appealed to the Northern 
states to make their governments the refuge of liberty. 


and to use the loyalty of citizens to them, stronger than 
the love of Union, to checkmate the Administration in its 
support of slavery. 

It is plain that a force was in the field which could not be 
overlooked, however far short it came of his own uncom- 
promising position outside of all political methods. In 
all his speeches at this time the Republican party comes 
in for his criticism, with occasional and partial commenda- 
tion. However, he admitted that it was improving. He 
was willing to acknowledge its moderate help in a sphere 
outside his own, into which he did not intrude. 

In the beginning of the year 1859, casting about for 
some sign of progress in the movement for emancipation,^ 
he notes the presence of insurrection in the air. It had been 
talked for the last five years in whispers of dread or hope in 
the South and the Southwest. The volcano and the earth- 
quake were at work and they smelled the gas. Newspaper 
articles were drifting toward the subject and, like the flight 
of birds, it augured something that was coming. But, after 
all, it was only a sign of the general unrest and disquiet — 
one little flock prematurely dashing southward and ending 
in the discomfiture of Harper's Ferry. Ossawattomie 
Brown was not of the race of Toussaint I'Ouverture, 
nor were the blacks of the whole South so easily unified 
as in St. Domingo. The insurrection hope only showed 
to what desperate straits the pioneers were driven in trying 
to find a way out of the woods. A forest fire might make 
a clearing, but what would have been left if it could have 
swept from the Ohio River to the Gulf and from Mississippi 

iJVlany Southerners, even, had cherished the idea of gradual emancipation ; Benton, for 
instance. See Roosevelt's " Life of Benton." 


to the sea! But he soon turned back to the better hope 
of the people's educated conscience and the adjustments 
of time. "There is not a Gibraltar rocky or fiery enough 
to stand against the united public opinion of the American 
people. They have acquiesced in bad measures enough 
for the slave interest ; let them demand good ones for freedom 
and the state will enact them with an Amen, and the Supreme 
Court will cry ' Cuckoo ! ' " 

On the 17th of February Phillips and others appeared 
before the Committee on Federal Relations in the hall 
of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts with a 
petition asking for a law to prevent the recapture of fugitive 
slaves. All made able arguments, each in his own dis- 
tinctive manner. Phillips based his plea upon the traditions 
of the State of Massachusetts, the first either in Europe or 
America to abolish negro slavery immediately and uncon- 
ditionally. Yet four hundred fugitives had fled from the 
state within a few years. With regard to the constitu- 
tionality of such a law, he cited Webster's early opinion 
and Adams's in 1819, the Federalist and other authorities 
to show on what unstable foundation the opposing provision 
in the Constitution rested, and that the acquiescence of 
the people is the surest sanction for a new enactment in a 
state that was a sovereignty one hundred and fifty-seven 
years before the Constitution was framed with its concessions 
and compromises. "And as for the Supreme Court, re- 
enact your law over its adverse decisions." 

This movement received strong condemnation from at 
least two of the principal journals in Boston, which pro- 
tested that it " is wrong to our sister states, which 
have a right to reclaim their property wherever found.'* 


And by a few votes the proposal was lost In the Legis- 

Another speech on Education in Massachusetts is note- 
worthy as containing no allusion to slavery. It is also an 
instance of his versatility in discussion, itself marked by 
breadth of view and illumined by learning. He did not 
fail, however, to advocate another cause — the equal privi- 
leges of women in state provision for education. Altogether 
the address was good, but not comparable with the average 
of his speeches. He lacked the stimulus of opposition 
and of a great wrong to be righted. 

Soon after, another example of his adaptation to the 
spirit of any occasion was afforded in a fitting tribute to 
the life and character of Charles F. Hovey, a Boston merchant 
who had been a generous and steadfast friend in the common 
cause. He possessed in a remarkable degree that quality 
of independence of which his eulogist admiringly said: 
"To be independent of the world, it has been well said, 
is little. To differ, when reason bids, from our immediate 
world, is the test of independence." This, it may be added, 
was a cardinal point and one of the first principles in the 
faith and practice of the band to which both belonged. 
In one thing only were they all agreed — the abolition of 
human slavery. How and where and by whom were ques- 
tions about which there was great opportunity to differ, 
because these ways and means had in them so much of 
uncertainty and impracticability, improbability and impossi- 
bility. According to newspaper reports of the May anni- 
versary in New York this year, difference of opinion, tending 
to general discouragement, and incidentally to criticism of 
fellow- workers, prevailed more than ever. The very broad- 


ening of the movement disquieted them because it could not 
be kept within pristine Hmits. Each man had his own 
theory and laboured to establish its soundness. All together 
they had stirred up some antagonism to the inhuman system 
in forty years — and about as much toward themselves — 
possibly more, when it is remembered that the South hated 
abolition more than the North disliked slavery, and often 
sympathized with slaveholders. 

There is, however, little token of discouragement revealed 
in Phillips's speeches at this time. He admitted that the 
political and religious world were still antagonistic; that a 
gulf divided the abolitionist from the sympathy of his 
countrymen. But there had been an immense growth in 
public sentiment. " Men are ashamed of the word slavery, 
and call the thing 1 )y softer names, as * economic subordina- 
tion ' and ' unenlightened labour.' There is hope for a cause 
when a certain man, who never allows his name to be mixed 
up with a hopeless cause, permits himself to be a candidate 
of the Republican party. In so far he was to be taken as 
a good sign. Nevertheless, no clergyman or politician of 
repute puts his foot upon an anti-slavery platform; and 
the great Christian societies do not commit themselves as 
yet. There are political movements for territorial purposes 
and state purposes; but only one to take a state out of a 
slave-system Union." At the close of this speech he pre- 
sented a petition for signatures, asking the state to put an 
end to slave-hunting in Massachusetts. 

If in his college days Phillips had thrown a wet blanket 
on the temperance movement, he had made frequent amends 
since, but never so conspicuously as liy the open rebuke 
in a letter to the Chief Justice of Massachusetts, the President 


of Harvard, and the company who did homage to Paul 
Morphy, the chess player, at the Revere House. The first 
is reminded that intoxication is the cause of three-fourths 
of the crime which he is called to pass sentence upon. The 
second is told that the untimely end of many students is 
due to the use of intoxicants. "Yet I find you both at a 
midnight revel, doing your utmost to give character to a 
haunt which boasts its open and constant defiance to the 
moral sense of the state, solemnly expressed in its statutes." 
In a crescendo of accusation the letter arraigns two of the 
principal dignitaries of law and learning for lending their 
sanction to a custom and an interest which the Common- 
wealth was trying to discourage. It could not be said 
that the reformer confined his efforts to a single cause or 
his rebukes to its adversaries far or near. Woman's position 
and four sources of education — talk, literature, govern- 
ment, and religion,— was the subject of a lecture delivered 
before a church fraternity in September. Under these 
topics several men and measures get comments that are 
spicy and adorned with illustrations from history, biography, 
and literature in the profusion which marked Phillips's 
lectures even more than his speeches. But underneath 
such an effort as this, at home and among his friends, the 
same cause of humanity comes to the surface as he moves 
on through historic incident, English law, Greek art and 
letters, closing with Jilschines' words: " Beware, therefore, 
Athenians, remembering that posterity will rejudge your 
judgment, and that the character of a city is determined 
by the character of the men it crowns." He had in mind 
a statue of Daniel Webster recently erected — an honour 
which the later policy of that statesman had greatly qualified. 


not only in the speaker's estimation, but in that of recent 
biographers, representing the changed views of the Com- 
monwealth on a great issue. 

Sundry journals intimated that Phillips was running low 
for topics and resorting to criticism of persons instead of 
institutions. The language used to denounce this criticism 
appears to have been picked up in the gutter, and has long 
since been discarded by respectable sheets. His sharp 
invectives against specific features of slavery were turned 
by his foes against himself, but lost their edge by their 
added foulness. Therefore the man with the rapier was 
not greatly harmed by the slingers of slime. Nor did they 
have long to wait for a fresh topic to which he could turn 
with the ready fulness of speech that characterized his 
treatment of every important stage in the movement for 

The raid upon Harper's Ferry by John Brown and his 
handful of comrades is now too well understood in its purpose, 
and its immediate result too well known to need more than 
passing mention. Its relation to greater events which folloAved 
has given it an importance that has been repeatedly observed. 
But, as in other critical junctures, it should be remembered 
that the view-points to be taken must be the ones occupied 
by the men of the time, and from the positions in which 
they stood to the disturbing cause. They differed as 
widely as the poles. Of them all it is only necessary here 
to define Wendell Phillips's attitude. He made it clear In 
a speech on the Lesson of the Hour, which he begged to 
substitute for a lecture that he had been preparing on a 
literary theme for the young men of Plymouth Church, 
Brooklyn, a fortnight after the raid, 


Its introductory thought was, confidence in the pubHc con- 
science when the responsibihty of deciding a great question 
is thrown upon it, after it has. been educated up to a high 
moral plane; that education is the insurrection of ideas 
toward the absolute essence of truth and right which lives in 
the sight of God. 

The natural result of this starting of ideas is like people 
who get half awaked, and use the first weapons that lie at 
hand. The element that John Brown has introduced into 
American politics makes them crystallize into right and 
wrong and marshal themselves on one side or the other. He 
has revealed a new element in the Northern mind. It is 
called madness. It will not be fifty years hence when it will 
possess, not a small band of abolitionists, but the civilization 
of the twentieth century. Free thought, in the long run, 
strangles tyrants. This is not an insurrection of slaves. 
Redemption will come from the interference of a wiser, higher, 
and more advanced civilization. Its first cropping out is in 
such a man as John Brown — his defeat the first step to some- 
thing better. Your soldiers shot him, sixteen marines of 
the Union, "the sincerest, bravest, most resolute man I ever 
saw," says the Governor of Virginia, and the state has for him 
nothing but a scaffold! His deed was the opening of the 
sixth seal, the pouring out of the last vial but one on a corrupt 
and giant institution. His act was not spoken of as it would 
have been twenty years ago, but — " What a pity he did not 
succeed." Sympathy was wide-spread. The American 
people are beginning to be educated. Ideas strangle statutes. 
What is fanaticism to-day will be a creed to-morrow. There 
is hope everywhere. It is only the universal history. 

"Right forever on the scaffold. Wrong forever on the throne ; 
But that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown 
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own." 

This address and the favour with which it was received 


caused much comment throughout the country. Southern 
papers began to talk of Northern conservatives as cowed by 
abohtionists and of disunion as inevitable. x411 at once the 
agitator was getting an unexpected tribute from the accusa- 
tion of his enemies. He had not insisted upon so much credit 
for himself as the responsibility for the invasion of Virio-inia, 
charged upon him by Southern journals. The hopeful tone 
of his last utterance was having an immediate fulfilment. 
Northern papers occasionally joined in the charge against 
him of exciting insurrection, and extreme Southern presses 
belched sheets of flame; but he turned this to account in the 
Boston meeting for the relief of the Brown family when he 
said, " Men say that he should have remembered that lead is 
wasted in bullets, and is much better made into types. Well, 
John Brow^n fired one gun, and has had the use of the press 
to repeat its echoes for a fortnight." 

To those who said that the result would not be worth the 
sacrifice, he cited the example of the few farmers who flung 
themselves against the phalanx of the British Government: 
" It was the beginning of the end. Now and then some sub- 
lime mad man strikes the hour of the centuries — and 
posterity wonders at the blindness which could not see in it 
the very hand of God himself." 

Phillips did not appear at the meeting in Boston on the 
day of the execution, Friday, December 2d, but the next day 
he was in New York waiting to take charge of the body on its 
way to North Elba, where its burial took place dn the 8th. 
With the surviving members of the family before him and 
with friends and neighbours who had gathered in the moun- 
tain home Phillips, following Mr. McKim of Philadelphia, 
said : 


How our admiring, loving wonder has grown, day by day, 
as he has unfolded trait after trait of earnest, brave, tender. 
Christian life. Your neighbour farmer went to tell the slaves 
that there were still hearts and right arms ready and nerved 
for their service. From this roof four, from a neighbouring 
one two, to make up that score of heroes. He has abolished 
slavery in Virginia. You may say this is too much. Men 
walked Boston streets when night fell on Bunker Hill and 
pitied Warren, saying: "Foolish man! Thrown away his 
life! Why did n't he measure his means better ? " That night 
George III. ceased to rule in New England. History will 
date Virginia Emancipation from Harper's Ferry. John 
Brown has loosened the roots of the slave system and has 
proved that a slave state is only Fear in the mask of Despot- 
ism, and men are trying to frame excuses for hanging an 
honest, heroic man. Others have fought for themselves and 
died for their own rights. This man died for a race in whose 
blood he had no share. This hour was the flowering of fifty 
years of single-hearted devotion. Could we have asked for 
a nobler representative of the Christian North putting her 
foot on the accursed system of slavery ? I do not believe it 
will go down in blood. Ours is the age of thought. His 
words are stronger than his rifles. They have changed the 
thoughts of millions and will yet crush slavery itself. Stand- 
ing here, let us thank God for a fuller faith and firmer hope. 

The next Sunday Mr. Phillips spoke in Music Hall on the 
Puritan Principle as illustrated by the life purpose of John 

Like the Puritans of two hundred years ago, the muskets 
are on one side and the pikes on the other. He flings him- 
self against the gigantic system which trembles under his 
single arm. What does Virg-inia fear ? Conscience. She 
stands on a volcano. Thought, the earthquake, is below her. 
She erects a gibbet and says it is necessary. One man goes 


up from it to God with two hundred thousand broken fetters 
in his hands and henceforth it is sacred forever. 

The Puritans formed a state and achieved hberty for them- 
selves and their posterity. John Brown goes a stride beyond 
them and dies for a race that was not his own. They taught 
him to trample wicked laws underfoot. He has taught us 
to practise the same principle. "If the crisis becomes 
sterner, meet it ! If the battle is closer, be true to my memory ! 
Men say that my act was a failure. Prove that it was not by 
showing a North ready to stand behind it. I am ready to 
plunge into the chasm that opens in the forum; only show 
yourselves ready to stand upon my grave. " 

Foolhardiness ! was the exclamation with which many 
concealed their admiration for the motive of a rash attempt, 
often adding, "What a pity he did not succeed!" "Why 
did he not take his victory and march away with it.^" 
But a few months revealed a significance in the wild venture 
which the mad prophet himself may have dimly foreseen, 
cast, like the spectre of the Brocken, as a portentous shadow 
of his heroic figure upon a gathering war-cloud, through 
which swelled the chorus of advancing regiments — 

"John Brown's Ijody lies mouldering in the grave. 
But his soul goes marching on." 

Among diverse judgments at the time and since, only 
Phillips's has been given here, which is, of course, that 
from his own perspective, and not that of the country at 

No question can be raised about John Brown's bravery, 
sincerity, and general purpose to organize some sort of an 
exodus of slaves out of bondage as peaceably as possible, 
but effectively. He found at once that they were not 


inclined to second his quixotic attempt. Judged by standards 
of law and order it was most culpable. The best way to 
have shown him how futile it was might have been to let 
him go on into the mountains as he proposed, and to see 
how few would have joined him, and that his enterprise 
was unappreciated and ridiculous. Instead, a frightened 
state, recalling Turner's insurrection, conferred on him 
the crown of martyrdom and gave him the success which he 
would have lost in trying to carry out his plan. He was 
thus saved from ignominious defeat by his natural enemies. 
Later, men who would have scoffed at his wild scheme 
in its failure remembered only the daring and the heroic 
purpose which had survived his death, and were enshrined \ 
in a war song that inspired them with a more reasonable 
courage. So Virginia, building his scaffold, unwittingly 
raised for him an Arch of Triumph. 

The following are from the Blagden MSS.: 

Norfolk, ^2d Nov., 1859. 
Wendell Phillips, Esq. 

Sir: Enclosed please find a lock of Old Jo^^n Brown's 
hair who is to be executed on 2d Proximo. 

A Slave Holder. 

Charlestoivn, Va., 2d December, 1857. 
I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes 
of this guilty land will never be purged away, but with 
Blood. I had, as I noiv think, vainly flattered myself that 
without very much bloodshed it might be done. 

On this envelope John Brown, the night before his 
death, wrote the names of hotel and towns as directions for 


his wife to return home. He gave it to her. McKim 
and I got it as our guide in going with her. 

Wendell Phillips. 

On an envelope inclosed in Mr. Phillips's letter was 
written : 

Mrs. John Brown, 

American House, Troy. Get ticket to Morean Station, 
Glens Falls, or go by Railroad by White Hall to Vergennes, 



THE attitude of Phillips and some of his comrades 
when war clouds were gathering was of interest 
to those who believed these men to be precipitators of 
sectional strife. Agitators themselves had not failed to 
observe that anti-slavery sentiment was spreading, if it 
was not deepening under their peaceable efforts to inform 
the public mind and to create antagonism to slavery. 
At last this was getting to be strong enough to uphold 
methods not sanctioned by themselves, although they might 
prove more efficient than their own. The Republican party, 
by advocating non-extension instead of abolition, had 
discouraged some radicals and turned them from the polls 
to the rifle. This, Phillips declared, was not the way to put 
down slavery. "Give us the ballot-box and a church that 
is Christian and an honest press and the people will cleanse 
the nation."^ 

Here was an instance of Phillips's steadfast faith in the 
ideals of thirty years holding, and of patience and hope 
for years to come, with some tolerance for those who could 
not bide the delays of the time, and a qualified commendation 

1" During the war the opposition to slavery, which originally had been abolitionist and 
political, gradually permeated the whole Church and made the conflict a crusade for the 
freedom of the slaves." — Hamilton's "Reconstruction Period," p. 461. 



of the Republican party as "the twihght dawn of a better 
day, whose sun was to be a radical abolitionist with lips 
as unfettered as John Randolph's, an Arab in the United 
States Senate with no President on his back." But there 
was no open vision of strife, nor even in passages of rhetorical 
fervor any presage of bloody conflict. It was in some 
other Northern extremists' minds, and threats were made by 
Southern fire-eaters ; but either from respect to the peaceable 
doctrines of non-resistants, or fidelity to his own methods 
of intellectual and moral suasion, addressing the head 
and heart, Phillips sounded no note of war. The failure 
of force at Harper's Ferry warranted silence, whatever 
prophecies might be inwardly deduced from the influence 
of this foray upon the Northern and Southern relations, 
already strained and tense. Probably a remark made in 
his speech in New York before the American Society's 
meeting in May, 1860, reveals his real sentiment as in a 
flash-light gleam, with the obscurity of irrelevance prevailing 
on either side of it, when with reference to a previous speaker's 
words he said, " I should be disposed to say with Mr. Brown- 

"'Shout for the good sword's ring! 
Shout for the thought still truer!' 

I go for the sword; but I go for the thought which ploughs 
deeper and lasts longer than the sw^ord-blade in a reading 
and thinking Nation like ours." But with the rest of the 
inhabitants of the land he had little thought of how far 
the sword might go when once it was drawn. Just then 
the Republican party was uppermost in his mind and also 
Sew^ard, whose softening of the "irresistible conflict" idea 


in his Rochester speech two years before encouraged Phil- 
lips to believe that the mission of abolitionists would not be 
ended until mere restriction of slavery to its present bounds 
should be supplemented by its total abolition ; since fertilizers 
would prevent its hoped-for extinction on its old ground. 
He believed that the Republican party had the heart of the 
North behind it, and that it meant to strangle slavery as soon 
as it could; but that it must not think that the slaveholder 
or the abolitionist believed the lies it called speeches. " Jeffer- 
son Davis and Mr. Mason were not listening to Seward's 
real opinions when he said that John Brown was justly 
hung. The South paid him the compliment of believing 
that he lied. He must have other metal than that to draw 
sixteen million of hearts." Presumptively, Seward was 
to be the next President. 

This partial overtaking of abolitionists by an anti-slavery 
movement in politics was heavy on Phillips's mind, as is 
evident in an address the next month, in Boston. His criti- 
cism of Republicanism is repeated, and his assertion of its 
shortcomings in not declaring its intention to attack American 
slavery. With it he contrasted the thirty years' war of aboli- 
tionists, despite which the Slave Power continued to have such 
a hold on the Nation that no politician or party dared to 
declare a purpose to overwhelm it. This speech was made 
two weeks after the Chicago convention, in which Abraham 
Lincoln passed William H. Seward on the third ballot 
and was unanimously nominated as the Republican candi- 
date for the next presidency. Phillips's attention was at 
once turned to him and the platform of the party. Of 
this he said, that with a few changes on the territorial ques- 
tion Douglas might as well have stood upon it; and of 


Lincoln, proclaimed to be the only man ca})able of uniting 
the anti-slavery sentiment of the North, he had arrived 
only at the point that he would favour the gradual abolition 
of slavery in the District of Columbia when the slaveholders 
asked for it! This represented the high- water mark of 
Northern anti-slavery sentiment. Sumner and Wilson, the 
best specimens, had never attacked the institution in its 
strongholds. Therefore no reliance could be placed on 
anything outside radical abolitionism. It would be better 
to elect Douglas and let Lincoln and Seward agitate, free 
from the restraints of office, and create a public sentiment 
able to deal with the great question. As it happened, 
the people said to Seward after he called John Brown a 
felon and said that the worst of our states was better than 
the best of Europe : You are not available ; we want a cleaner 
man. "And they took Lincoln, an infinitely more hopeful 
sign. His past is a blank. Seward's is not. He said what 
he did not believe. Men are politically dead when they 
whisper in Washington what they would not have heard 
at home, and vice versa'"' 

If Phillips had looked up Lincoln's record he would not 
have found it much more promising. Before his election 
he was not in favour of the unconditional repeal of the 
Fugitive Slave Law; was not pledged against the admission 
of any more slave states into the Union; nor of a new state 
with slavery, if the people choose; nor against the prohibition 
of the slave trade between different states. "Impliedly," 
he said, " Lincoln was pledged to a belief in the right and 
duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the territories. 
This was a very mild, safe, and available political creed 
in 1860. Northern Democrats might have swallowed it." 


But it was a red rag in Southern pastures, as was the Chicago 
platform; and the candidate who stood upon it was a black 
Republican, or a red one, according to the lights reflected 
from different sections of an inflamed South. And there 
were dire threats of what would happen if he were elected 
in November. 

On the seventh of that month Phillips spoke at length 
upon the election of Abraham Lincoln the day before. 
His opening sentence was characteristic: 

If the telegraph speaks the truth, for the first time in our 
history the slave has chosen a President of the United States. 
We have passed the Rubicon, for Mr. Lincoln rules to-day 
as much as he will after the 4th of March. It is the moral 
effect of this victory, not anything which his administration 
can or will do, that gives value to this success. Not an 
abolitionist, hardly an anti-slavery man, Mr. Lincoln 
consents to represent an anti-slavery idea. He is before 
the curtain: John Brown behind it. A freedom-loving 
Whig, to bring back the Government to where it stood in 
1789, who does not believe that the Negro is his political 
or social equal, nor that he should sit on juries, nor vote, 
nor be considered a citizen. But this standard bearer is 
enough gain for once. First the blade, then the ear, then 
the full corn! His election is a milestone marking prog- 
ress. There are hopes in growth. The Republican party 
will be forced on to abolition, and to believe with Napoleon 
that there is no power without justice. But for us, the 
pioneers of a Christian future, it is for us to found a Capitol 
whose corner-stone is Justice, and whose cap-stone is 
Liberty, where One shall dwell who is no respecter of 
persons, but hath made of one blood all Nations of the 
earth to serve him. 

The significance of this entire speech may be gathered 


from these lines. It is hopeful and ungrudging. The new 
party got all the praise it then deserved, and though its 
proposals were below the orator's own advanced standard, 
he believed that the people had reached the foot-hills and 
were beginning to set their faces toward the mountain 
tops. But not all of them, as he could see in his own neigh- 
bourhood. For although the mass was turning, there 
was the inevitable clashing and the desperate resistance 
by those who could not all at once be moved from the 
holdings of a lifetime. Proof of this was near at hand. 

On the anniversary of John Brown's execution " a number 
of young men unconnected with any organization " under- 
took to hold a meeting in Tremont Temple, and had invited 
leaders and representatives of anti-slavery societies to be 
present and speak on the question, " How Can American 
Slavery Be Abolished } " The account of a long and stormy 
meeting may be given in a few words. It was broken up by 
a mob, hissing and howling, jeering and interrupting, no 
one able to utter five sentences, the police indisposed or 
not caring to keep order, and finally commanded by the 
Mayor to clear the hall after three and a half hours of pande- 
monium. The orderly element adjourned to Joy Street 
Church, where Mr. Phillips appeared as one of the speakers, 
although his name does not appear in the account of what 
he termed "the morning's convulsive spasm of mercenary 
scoundrelism." H^ took up the mayoralty of Boston, 
remarking; that abolitionists were accustomed to live without 
government. With two exceptions there was not a city 
north of Baltimore in which abolition meetings had not 
been broken up. In regard to the main question, he was 
in favour of all methods of abolishing slavery, but principally 


of free discussion. "Free speech is what we want and 
what we will give." 

His adhesion to this peaceable method of working out 
a great reform cannot be observed too often. In all the 
phases of political progress, or of sectional violence, he 
held fast to the efficacy of ideas and ideals, presented without 
fear or apprehension. His words were as strong and his 
vision of sin as clear at first as now, and at last as in the 
beginning, twenty-five years before. And, judging by the 
way his speech was received in December, 1860, the broad- 
cloth mob, for such it was, had not advanced much beyond 
the malignancy of their fathers in 1835; it was more violent 
than on the occasion of the Alton riot meeting. It cursed 
negroes, cheered at mention of the Slave Power and slave states. 
The best explanation of a seemingly retrograde movement, 
in a generally forward one throughout the country just 
after the election of Lincoln, must be found in the final 
wrath of commercialism over its impending loss of Southern 
trade. Like the demon in the gospel story, when it saw 
the end coming it threw the possessed down, tore him, and 
he wallowed, foaming. It pursued Phillips returning from 
the Joy Street meeting by a side street, but finding him 
guarded by a cordon of forty men, vented its wrath in yells 
of execration. 

A fortnight later Phillips addressed the late Theodore 
Parker's congregation — as had been his frequent custom 
since the death of their minister in Florence on the 
10th of June — and upon whom he pronounced a fitting 
eulogy, quoting Mr. Parker's words: "When I am fifty, 
I will leave the pulpit and finish the great works I have 


God ordained it so. He has gone to finish the great 
works that he had planned — gone full of labours if not 
years; "old in hours, for he lost no time." Of his theology 
it is not for me to speak. Mine is the old faith of New 
England. The lesson of his preaching was love: his 
pulpit a live reality and no sham. His criticism not 
so much censure as the creation of a nobler pattern, broad 
as humanity, frank as truth, stern as justice, and loving as 

Other qualities were enumerated in terms that the eulo- 
gist so well knew how to employ in portraying the character 
of one who had served and sacrificed in the unpopular 
cause. Despite differences of belief, the people had asked 
Phillips to supply the pulpit when he could do so. On 
the morning of Sunday, December 16th, he found policemen 
stationed in the ante-rooms and a detachment in the hall, 
in consequence of a rumour that the speaker was to be 
mobbed and assaulted. Requesting the audience of thirty- 
three hundred to abstain from expression of sympathy with 
his sentiments by applause — hisses never troubled him — 
he proceeded to speak on " Mobs and Education." He 
characterized the recent mob as " made up of young rogues» 
society snobs, rotten before they were ripe. Like the two 
tailors who undertook to tear down the throne of George 
the Third, calling themselves 'We the people of England,* 
these are the House of Nobles whose leave we are to ask 
before we speak. And the city government — small men 
with not grasp enough for business and therefore with leisure 
for politics, could not quell the mob which attempted to 
silence men who were forcing this question of freedom 
upon statesmen. To avoid such disorders in the future, 


plant in the heart of masses the conviction that the right 
of free speech is sacred." 

During the discourse the speaker was frequently interrupted 
by hisses and clamour from the rear of the hall and upper 
balcony; but these sounds died away before the masterly 
eloquence to which the great assembly was compelled to 
listen. But as Phillips left the building accompanied by 
friends a crowd cried out, "There he is! Down Avith the 
abolitionist! Bite his head off," etc., surging toward him. 
His friends, aided by the police, finally forced the crowd 
to give way and proceeded up Washington Street, followed 
by a yelling and hissing mob until they reached the house 
in Essex Street, where by the request of the deputy chief 
of police the pursuers reluctantly dispersed. One of the 
two hundred policemen who assisted in guarding Phillips 
said that they were all needed to get him home alive through 
a crowd of merchants' clerks whose interest and very living 
compelled them to trample him down in the street. The 
cotton trade was behind them in a city where, as one of 
its clergymen said in the same month, " it had been a source 
of pride that all might speak. Its halls are open to Senator 
Toombs, Yancey, or Jefferson Davis. If men did not wish 
to hear what they said, they remained at home; but if slavery 
is discussed, the mob cries, Stop! When it strikes down the 
right of free speech, it strikes down all of us and we are at 
his mercy. But this one was composed of Boston gentlemen, 
men of wealth, church members, a gray-haired deacon 
among them, and a candidate for whom twenty thousand 
people voted to put him in the Governor's chair." And 
prominent journals endorsed the two mobs of December, 
1860. It was the last argument of a weak cause, the desperate 


upholding by force of a system which was tottering to its fall, 
anticipating a final rally for its defence by armed states. 

A month later Phillips again addressed a great congre- 
gation in the same hall on the I^esson of the Hour. Reckon- 
ing years as minutes, he said that the clock of the century 
was striking twelve, and signs of dissolution were patent 
to observers at home and abroad — in January, 1861, the 
year of secession and rebellion. There were more lessons 
than any one man could read or expound ; but the man 
who had watched the Union for thirty years told what he 
saw plainest, although he Avas the last to see or to predict 
the worst, as he exclaimed: 

The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice. The chain 
which has held the slave system since 1787 is parted. Who 
dreamed that success would come so soon ? South Caro- 
lina flings her gauntlet at the feet of twenty-five millions 
of people in defence of an idea. I would New England 
could count one state as fearless among her six. The 
mistake is in fancying there is more chance of saving slavery 
outside than inside. Three states have followed her ex- 
ample. If the rest of the slave states follow, the whole 
merciless conspiracy of 1787 is ended. Before the Union 
was formed nine out of ten were proud to be called aboli- 
tionists, and Washington and Jefferson uttered anti-slavery 
opinions for which they would be mobbed to-day in every 
great city of the North. The best way to get rid of this evil 
is not by the slow progress of Government jiatronage, which 
the South has controlled for sixty years, but to let all connec- 
tion with it be severed immediately and it will die for lack 
of Northern support. The North pays for the plantation 
patrol, and other expenses. Launch South Carolina out 
and let her see if she can make the year's ends meet. Slavery 
will drop to pieces by the competition of the century. That 


is what we mean by disunion! That is my coercion: 
Southern pulpits commanding the Southern conscience; 
Northern competition emptying its pockets; educated slaves 
awaking its fears; Civilization and Christianity beckoning 
the South into their sisterhood. 

Such was Phillips's view of settling the question which 
was dividing the Nation and states, disturbing sections 
and neighbourhoods, creating feuds in families and alien- 
ating friends. It was a method as good as any where 
none could avail anything. Compromise had been the 
sedative hitherto, and the leaders of the Republican party 
were now desperately trying every form of it, knowing 
that it was not a cure, but hoping to induce quiet until 
they could be as high-handed as the Slave Power had 
been for half a century. This oligarchy saw the inevitable 
turn in control, and that its only assured dominion was by 
itself and over its neighbours in its own domain. The day 
of compromises was gone forever, because the South would 
no longer accept them. In its coming kingdom of self- 
sufficiency it had no use for a Northern partner whose sense 
of justice and human rights was struggling with its commer- 
cialism, and whose willingness to permit the existence of 
slavery did not include its extension. 

Therefore the lower states were seceding and trying to 
draw the upper ones with them. Abolitionists began to 
rejoice over the prospect of a Northern confederacy, freed 
from longer responsibility for the protection and continuance 
of a system of bondage — a republic made consistent 
through the simple and peaceable process of sloughing off 
a diseased section by its own choice. It seemed all at once 
to be an unlooked-for solution of a question which had 


vexed anti-slavery people for years. There was no longer 
need to withdraw Massachusetts and Ohio and the rest, 
since they and all the Northern states were to be left in the 
lurch. Slavery, to be sure, might be })rolonged when the 
growing Northern opposition to it could not attack the 
slaveholding power in Congress; but it would die of starva- 
tion and competition. So they reasoned and so they talked 
and wrote for five months. 

The next time Phillips spoke in public, on the first of 
February, 1861, the disturbance in the galleries was so 
great that for over an hour he could get only an occasional 
sentence heard until the appearance of policemen secured 
comparative quiet — that is, for an anti-slavery meeting. 
The most noteworthy remark made by him was, that "time 
would bring South Carolina back into the Union a free 
state. Economic reasons would bring her back when the 
poison of slavery that causes a temporary convulsion is 
gone." Its casting out he also expected would be by similar 
reasons of profit or loss, not at present by any high moral 
view of a long-standing system of injustice. " How could 
South Carolina be expected to take higher views than 
Massachusetts, which was then considering a repeal of 
her Personal Liberty Bill as interfering with th6 working 
of the Fugitive Slave Law ? " This concession to the Slave 
Power Phillips opposed in a long argument before a legis- 
lative committee as late as the 29th of January. It was one 
of a number of propitiatory offerings after secession had 
begun, to keep the integrity of the Union on any terms. 
The Personal Liberty Bill had greatly offended the South 
and had hastened disruption. It provided that the Supreme 
Court might command that whoever holds a person in 


custody should come before the court and tell why he holds 
him. If the arrest was illegal, he should be discharged; if 
facts were disputed, a jury would be summoned. This was 
well enough for a white man, but it might interfere with catch- 
ing a fugitive slave. Accordingly, Massachusetts on the eve of 
secession was holding out a repeal of habeas corpus in black 
letter to bait back disgruntled pursuers of runaway slaves, 
who, however, were now scorning the proffered concession. 

The argument which Phillips made before the legislative 
committee, crowded as it is with legal and historical lore, 
is another instance showing to what eminence he might 
have attained, and what he surrendered for the cause he 
had chosen to champion. If not more than an agitator, he 
could be something besides an abolition orator. 

His optimism, which had prevailed in varying degrees 
through twenty-five years of slow advance, was strong and 
encouraging a fortnight before Lincoln's inauguration, 
when in an address to four thousand people crowding 
Music Hall to overflowing, he asked: 

Why is the present hour sunshine ? Because, for the 
first time in our history, we have a North, asserting and 
claiming, no longer cheating and buying. Out of the pop- 
ular heart is growing a Constitution which will supersede 
the on:; made in 1787. The North elects the President, 
the South secedes. Despite the danger of compromise 
and the belief that disunion is ruin, twenty millions of 
people are loyal to the idea of justice to a dependent, helpless, 
hated race. Notwithstanding mobs in every Northern city, 
no man wishes to be charged with a willingness to extend 
slavery. Now the North is willing to compromise to gain 
time; but that delays emancipation. A thousand slaves 
are born each day. Hurry emancipation three years and 


you raise a million into freedom. Delay risks insurrection 
— the worst door at which freedom can enter. The ballot 
should supersede the bullet. Let there be a peaceful solu- 
tion of this question. But war is no more sickening than a 
hundred and fifty years of slavery. With the Union ended 
we part friends, and the South no longer hates the North. 
Laws of trade will bind them together as they do other 
lands, and disunion could not make them any more at war 
than they are now. The South cannot make war on any 
one; they will have enough to attend to at home, and slave 
states will soon be fewer. Disunion is honour and profit. 
Why then offer the South a whole bundle of compromises 
and beg her to condescend to indicate her preference ? 

But the South was beyond offers of compromise. She 
either saw the incidental delay for Northern purposes or 
was too busy with the scheme of secession, upon which 
some states were engaged in enlisting others, to pay attention 
to Northern proposals for reconciliation. Nor had Phillips's 
optimistic vision of peace a sound basis. The hope of 
years was father to a prophecy which men less studious of 
the times than he were not making;. Mr. Lincoln's inausf- 
uration was at hand, and threats of his assassination were 
heard, with plots that made necessary a change of route to 
Washington and military surveillance of tha city on March 
4th. And yet in the first paragraph of his inaugural address 
the Republican President declared that he had "no purpose, 
directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of 
slavery in the states where it exists"; that he had no lawful 
right or inclination to do so; and that he was elected with 
this understanding. In the second paragraph he defended 
the returning of fugitive slaves as a Constitutional obligation, 
recommending care that free men be not surrendered as 


slaves. He spoke of disruption of the Union as formidably 
attempted, but not to be lawfully accomplished without the 
consent of all parties concerned. He asserted that resolves 
and ordinances to secede are legally void and acts of violence 
revolutionary or insurrectionary; that he should consider 
the Union unbroken, and that it would defend and maintain 
itself without bloodshed or violence unless it were forced 
upon the National authority. Secession might be repeated 
in a seceded section. Its central idea is the essence of 
anarchy, the rule of the minority. Slavery is the only 
substantial dispute, and would be worse after separation 
than before. Aliens cannot make treaties easier than friends 
can make laws. If two sections go to war, after much loss 
on both sides and no gain on either, the identical questions 
are again upon you. "In your hands, my dissatisfied 
fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the monstrous issue 
of civil war. You can have no conflict without yourselves 
being the aggressors." 

Lincoln did not refuse to see what was imminent; but his 
vision did not penetrate far beyond Phillips's in these first 
days of disturbance. He evidently thought of an evenly 
matched strife and the old question unsettled in the end. 
It was not easy to prophesy in the spring of 1861. Boasting 
was easier when men were putting on the harness for a 
three months' war. When they put it off after four years, 
they had learned that it is as unsafe to boast as to predict. 
The new President surveyed the entire country with sadness 
and misgiving, but also with calm determination to stand 
for the plainest rights of the Government, the letter of the 
Constitution, and the integrity of the Union. Doubtful 
questions might be settled later — slavery among them. 



IN FORTY days from the inauguration war had begun 
by the attack upon Fort Sumter, April 12th. Three 
days before, rumours of impending strife reached New 
England. Phillips, lecturing in New Bedford on the eve- 
ning of the ninth, commented on the tidings in these 
words, which are at least consistent with his position for 
a quarter of a century: 

I am sorry that a gun should be fired at Fort Sumter 
or from it. A series of states think that their peculiar insti- 
tutions require a separate government. They have a right 
to decide that question. Standing with the principles of 
'76 behind us, who can deny them the right, and what good 
to deny it ^ Years hence we shall have gone through a war, 
spent millions, required the death of a hundred thousand 
men, and be exactly where we are now. There is no longer 
a Union. My proposition is: Go out, gentlemen: you are 
welcome to your empire; take it. Let them try the experi- 
ment. But there is another element in the problem: we 
can then no longer extend to the black race in the South 
our best sympathy and our best aid. 

Furthermore he thought that the North would not endorse 
such a war; that sympathy for the South would follow; that 



it could injure the North more than the North could harm 
it; that provoking war was to bring about another compro- 
mise, and that the end would be another Union under a 
worse Constitution. Altogether there was not much to choose 
between his outlook and the President's; and other prophets 
saw no clearer through the war-cloud that was rising. 

Twelve days later, and nine after the first shot was fired, 
Phillips addressed four thousand people in Music Hall, 
where he was still occupying the place left vacant by the 
death of Theodore Parker. In these few days his position 
on the question of armed conflict to which he had always 
closed his eyes was materially changed. For the first time 
he was with the majority and the majority was with him. 
Together they had been swept into a solid phalanx by the 
cannon blast from Charleston. Throughout the North the 
uprising was as general as it was unlooked for; volunteers 
were assembling by thousands, and three hundred millions 
of dollars had been offered to the Government. 

It was a question of curiosity or concern to his fellow-citi- 
zens how Wendell Phillips would meet the flood of popular 
excitement. Would it move him from the rock on which he 
had stood for a quarter of a century ? Would he be sur- 
prised and a little disturbed by the sudden throwing down 
of the barriers that had kept back accumulating waters? 
Could he keep ahead of the wild rush and direct its course ? 
These and other questions, thousands flocked to hear 
answered on that Sunday morning of April 21st, and other 
thousands more who could not be admitted to the hall. 

Many times this winter, here and elsewhere, I have coun- 
selled peace — urged the expediency of acknowledging a 
Southern confederacy, and the peaceful separation of these 


thirty-four states. It has been announced that I come here 
to retract those opinions. No, not one of them! I need 
them ail, every word I have spoken this winter — every act of 
twenty-five years of my Hfe, to make the welcome I give this 
war hearty and hot. The only mistake I have made was 
in supposing Massachusetts wholly choked with cotton dust 
and cankered with gold. The South thought our patience 
and willingness for peace were cowardice; to-day shows the 
mistake. Any man who loves either liberty or manhood 
must rejoice at such an hour. The anti-slavery enterprise 
started with peace written on its banner, believing that the 
age of ideas had come; that if statesmen would devote them- 
selves to a great issue it might be accomplished. Our mis- 
take was in counting too much on their wisdom and on the 
intelligence of the masses. It is the nineteenth century in the 
North; the fourteenth in the South, baron and serf, noble 
and slave. The struggle is between barbarism and civiliza- 
tion, to be settled only by arms. The war is not aggressive, 
but defensive. For thirty years the North has exhausted 
conciliation and compromise, has left the helm of govern- 
ment to the Southern states. It offered in vain to meet in 
convention the sister states and manage the terms of peace- 
ful separation. The South knew that the Government could 
not acknowledge secession. It is revolutionary. The Nation 
offered in convention to meet the question. It was declined; 
an evidence of intention to provoke war. Let it be short and 
thorough. We are to rebuild the Union down to the Gulf. 
War means one of two things — Emancipation or Disunion. 
Establish Justice and secure Liberty. It is Freedom against 

In this address there was no indication of veering from his 
course toward emancipation, steadily pursued for twenty-five 
years. The only change was in accepting the arbitrament of 
war for the persuasive methods which he had vainly hoped 
would prevail in some far future when the educated conscience 



of the majority should vote slavery out of the Union, with 
or without compensation to slaveholders. Plans could 
not be clear with the day of deliverance so remote. These 
he trusted to the coming time. The present duty had been 
to create the right sentiment, and much had been done; but 
all at once, before the people were half convinced or converted, 
they had started up with one accord and were marching an 
armed host to defend the integrity of the Nation; but in a 
direction and possibly with a half-formed purpose that 
together made the perpetuity of African bondage in the South 
extremely uncertain. Therefore the agitator said, "If it is 
to be swept away by war instead of peaceful methods, let the 
shortness of the process and the early coming of the kingdom 
of righteousness compensate for the violence of the means." 
Speedy amputation might be surer than slow and unwhole- 
some absorption. Nor was there any note of regret that the 
credit of victory was likely to pass to those who had arrived 
at the eleventh hour to carry by force what milder methods 
had not more than begun to accomplish. Instead, he fell 
in with the new movement and did what he could to shape 
its direction and add to its efficiency. This work, tributary 
to his constant purpose, gives a new phase to his future utter- 
ances, which are as independent in their criticism of policies 
and politics as in the days when he stood alone or with a 
forlorn hope against the sentiment of the entire country. 
And it was sometimes as unpopular and dangerous to disagree 
with the new fervour as with the old prejudice. But in this 
address of April 21st, the multitude was with him, and the 
mob outside that threatened his life three months before now 
wanted to draw him home in triumph. Nevertheless, 
Boston papers, having a full report of the address, did not 


publish it. An extra edition of the Liberator containing it 
was struck off and nearly sixteen thousand copies sold. The 
press was waiting to be led by the people, who were for once 
nearer in accord with the orator than ever before or even 
afterward, at least for a long time. All had been uplifted as 
by a tidal wave of patriotism, which soon swept printing 
presses also to a higher level. 

There was no attempt at reticence in the Southern press. 
Virginia papers spoke of besotted fanatics, including now the 
entire North, bloody and brutal abolitionists desecrating her 
sacred soil, who were to be welcomed with bullets and 
bayonets as a horde of thieves, robbers, and assassins. In 
Tennessee journals. Northerners were a rabble of vagabonds 
and cut-throats, mercenaries and murderers. In Louisiana, 
a greater sanity was shown in admitting disappointment of 
the expectation that a conservative element in the North and 
West would overwhelm the Administration and extend aid 
and succour to the South, or at least decline to take up arms 
for the Government. Jefferson Davis fell into a similar 
strain when he told the citizens of Richmond, June 1st: "To 
the enemy we leave the base acts of the assassin and incen- 
diary; to them we leave it to insult helpless women; to us 
belongs vengeance upon men." Wise and Wigfall dis- 
coursed with equal truth and valour, assuring the crowd that 
a Yankee would never face cold steel, and that genuine cour- 
age was a Southern monoply. And Beauregard's fling, in 
his proclamation on June 5th, was the charge that "Beauty 
and Booty was the war-cry of the abolition hosts"; all of 
which was the bluster, bravado, and falsehood of apprehen- 
sive Southerners. 

With his inflexible and advanced ideas, Phillips found 


much to criticize in the conduct of affairs, and on the Fourth 
of July, 1861, he took up the role of public censor once more. 
Events, not men, were the objects of interest. These events 
were brought about by the masses rather than by statesmen. 
Seward, in his opinion, was not honest enough, Lincoln not 
bold enough, and there was no statesmenship anywhere in 
the sense of understanding the times. He had advocated 
disunion as a peaceable method of freeing the North from the 
guilt of slavery and of planting in the South the seeds of 
emancipation, but no man should flatter himself that he can 
mould the world exactly in his method. 

Discussion is over; war has begun. The South has pre- 
ferred bullets to debate, which I shovdd have chosen. I bow 
to the masses and welcome emancipation by war. The South, 
in its ruling elements at least, is in earnest. The North is 
only awake, not yet in earnest, groping its way, like the 
Administration, saying, What shall I do ? but proposes 
nothing. It should scan the cause of the disease, and indi- 
cate the remedy. iVssure that half of the South who would 
be rid of slavery that the Nation will shield them from ruin, 
free the slaves, and success is sure. War is a stain on the 
country if it means only the Union as it was. The Govern- 
ment is not strong enough to announce emancipation now; 
but let it declare its purpose not to propitiate the Slave Power 
and to secure liberty. Shut the Administration up to its 
duty of emancipation. Give it sympathy and all the con- 
fidence you can. It means Union at present and is willing 
to mean anything now. Change the Republic from hypocrisy 
to honour. Point your muskets at the Slave Power. Shame 
England. Help Lincoln. In five years the slaves will be free. 

Phillips continued his criticism after the first battle. The 
Bull Run blunder and disaster, murder and butchery was in 
all minds. He scored the Administration. 


The Government deserved to be defeated. Its half-wav 
measures, its traitor subordinates in every department of the 
Capitol furnishing information and aid to the enemy, delay- 
ing emancipation — the only way out of the war and the only 
refuge for the future, demanded by the North because 
Slavery is the kernel of this dispute — all this is to be ordered 
anew. The blacks not to be returned to bondaire, but 
received within army lines and armed. ^ Public offices to be 
cleared of men who have refused to take the oath of alleo-iance. 
hoping for the defeat of Union soldiers, making duplicates of 
plans for rebels to inspect — what is such a campaign but 
sending regiments to be butchered. Let the Government 
dare to give free rein to the ardour of the people and strike 
at the cause of rebellion by protecting fugitives and freeing 
the slaves. 

Within five months from the opening of the strife the lead- 
ing journals of the North were voicing a general conviction 
that there ought to be a definite purpose rather than a 
divided policy. Compromise, concession, and strict observ- 
ance of property-rights in the Negro had failed to have a 
modifying influence on Southern war policy. Instances of 
rebel barbarity worthy of aboriginal savages were reported 
in letters and reprinted in newspapers, convincing pro- 
slavery or indifferent people in the North that the Slave Power 
was more earnest than chivalrous -^— an opinion which at 
length began to possess the composite brain of a mixed 
^Administration, but not entirely or immediately. Southern 
leaders fired soldiers' hearts with the duty of striking for the 
sanctity of their homes, as if there were any need of it, and the 
safety of wives and children, not much mentioning their slave 
interest; while the Northern leaders held up a Union of all 

^Twelve or fifteen thousand Negroes were already employed by the Confederates in throwing 
up intrenchments and digging trenches. 


sorts of states and a National Government to be kept intact. 
Both sides said little about four million blacks who had been 
the irresponsible occasion of a growing alienation, culminat- 
ing in fratricidal war/ Gradually this disturbing cause was 
coming to be recognized, and the opinion to prevail that it 
must be removed. Abolitionists had always insisted upon it; 
and now in the first year of the war influential journals in the 
chief cities were telling the Government what the better por- 
tion of the North had concluded ought to be done: Strike 
down slavery and the Union will take care of itself when the 
disintegrating canker is removed. But the President, bent 
as he was on the suppression of the rebellion, had not begun 
to entertain this measure as tributary to his purpose. Peti- 
tions were circulating in Middle and Western states as early 
as August that he would proclaim abolition under war power. 
Fremont in Missouri had declared slaves of the enemy free, 
for which, however, he was rebuked by Lincoln, but justified 
by his later action; and Marshal McDowell of Kansas was 
instructed to execute the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Law. 
If Lincoln was moving in the same direction as the Nation, 
it was slowly and in the rear of press and people. He was 
still careful of slaveholding interests in September, 1861, as 
was Congress. 

As early as May, General Butler at Hampton had interro- 
gated three Negroes who had entered his camp, and deciding 
that they were what their rebel master claimed — his prop- 
erty — confiscated them as "contraband of war." By 
the 30th of July he had nine hundred more of them on his 

i"The Negro was the cause of the war and the subject of three amendments to the Con- 
stitution." — Thorpe's "History of North America," p. 405. "The cause of the great War 
of the Rebellion against the United States will have to be attributed to slavery." — " Personal 
Memoirs of U. S. Grant," p. 659. See also Chadwick's Causes of the Civil War, "American 
Nation," xix. 


hands, when he applied to the War Department for further 

Twenty daj^s before the able-bodied had been set to work 
upon military works of the army at $10 per month with rations 
and clothes, and had become heirs to American citizenship 
and all its chartered rights without all of its privileges. Eman- 
cipation had begun in the army as a war measure before it 
was proclaimed at the Capitol.^ There, property in slaves 
was still regarded as Aiore sacred than in cattle and provisions. 
The domestic institution was kept out of sight while war was 
discussed. Putting down a rebellion was considered more 
than the conditions of a perpetual peace. It was the first 
thing to be done. 

Meantime there was one more outcry against abolitionists 
as enemies of the Government, dissatisfied grumblers, and 
obstructionists, or as prodders of the Administration. In 
turn, they regarded spurring as their special duty. 

There was little bitterness in Phillips's address on The 
War before the Mercantile Library Association of Boston 
on the 27th of November. As a mere abolitionist his inter- 
est in the war had ceased, for slavery had received its death 
wound, and the rest of its life would be a process of dying. 
Whether conc|uest or compromise ensued, the slave would 
go free and there would be a peace born of justice. iVbolish 
slavery and save the Union. He had been a disunionist in 
order to take nineteen states and consecrate them to justice. 
He would rather take thirty-four. 

Phillips closed his speaking for the fateful year of 1861 
with a lecture at the Cooper Institute, New York, on the 

^See an article in the Atlantic Monthly, November, 1861, by the first superintendent of this 
auxiliary labour, Edward L. Pierce. 


19th of December with The War for his subject. He came 
upon the platform no longer as a despised abolitionist, but 
as a national man above political creed and party, the cham- 
pion of human rights and the advocate of whatever measures 
would soonest secure their respect by the country at large. 
At the opening of his address he recognized that the old 
work of creating public opinion was over, and the time come 
for making evident and intense the matured purpose of the 
Nation that slavery as the cause of the war should be extermi- 
nated; a result that would follow either one of two possible 
issues of the strife. He did not accept war as the best solu- 
tion, nor even as a good thing, except as compared with the 
standing evil of the craven past. A debt of three billions of 
dollars and a disbanded army were evils to be dreaded, with 
tendencies toward unlimited domination at Washington. 

The alternative is that the country remain as in the last 
thirty years under Southern control. It means that some 
three hundred thousand slaveholders befooling seven million 
poor whites into being their tools shall dictate terms to mil- 
lions more in the North, with our commerce and foreign 
relations at the mercy of Southern demagogues. If the South 
should emancipate, England would make haste to recognize 
and help her. If we could have one hundred thousand blacks 
we could cut the rebellion in halves. Congress has all 
powers to carry on a war, despotic, if need be; power to root 
up an evil which has culminated in rebellion. Let it abolish 
slavery throughout the Union, with compensation to loyal 
slaveholders. A Union fovmded upon justice, existing for 
the liberty of all, is the only permanent Union. Democracy 
accepts the struggle, confident that she has power to execute 
her will, she sends her proclamation down to the Gulf — 
Freedom to every man beneath the stars and death to every 
institution that threatens the future of the Republic. 


Eight months' reflection on the kaleidoscopic shif tings of 
events had not greatly changed Phillips's position. He 
was an abolitionist still, but one who saw his teachings of 
thirty years suddenly s})ringing up like seed that has waited 
a generation for deep plowing to bring it to the surface soil. 
He was talking disunion no longer because he was in good 
hopes that the Union would come out of the war purged of 
slavery. The country was moving toward his standard, 
and while it loved to say that Mahomet was at last approach- 
ing the mountain, the reverse was true; and the multitude 
was drifting like clouds l^efore the "slow, unwilling winds" 
to conclusions which were once regarded as the height of 
wild fanaticism. The logic of events corresponded with 
his word of prophecy. But the Administration was lagging 
behind the people and holding them back.^ 

This was Phillips's charge when he reviewed the nine 
months of strife in the first week of 1862. 

The Cabinet could explain why Sumter fell, and why 
Norfolk Navy Yard and Harper's Ferry were lost, and why 
the defeat at Manassas happened — through the timidity, 
incapacity, and ill-timed ambition that has brought the eager 
country into humilation and jeopardy. If the Nation sur- 
vives, it is because the people are vital and sufficient for the 
hour. The Government's purpose, so far as can be learned, 
is to put back the Nation to 1789 and 1860, and save slavery. 
The South so far has shown the better right to succeed and 
more statesmanship, subsidizing every press and court in 
Europe. She fights for her idea — slavery. Liberty is our 
idea, and the Government is trying to tread on eggs without 
breaking them. We must avoid war with England and 

iPhillips's advanced position is recognized in a letter from George William Curtis, written 
December 25: "If I differ from you, it is never at the bottom, but only on the top; and if 
sometimes it seems to me that you want a law before you have the public opinion which 
makes law valid and practicable, why — I am sometimes singularly mistaken." — Biagden MSS. 


servile insurrection. Say to Europe, We can manage this 
quarrel. We can ask Congress to override this Cabinet, 
to give it courage to blot out the disgrace of '61 and conquer 
with better cannon than McClellan's. 

In March Phillips started on a six weeks' lecturing tour 
through Washington and westward. At the Capitol he 
was graciously received by Mr. Lincoln and welcomed on 
the floor of the Senate by the presiding officers of both Houses ; 
speaking at the Smithsonian on Seizing the Opportunity. 
At Philadelphia he was hissed, but at Cincinnati a paid crowd 
of whiskey-filled ruffians made such a disturbance that the 
papers of every party made haste to efface the stain of the 
city's record for vulgar and dangerous demonstration. A 
bottle of vitriol was left behind unthrown, but a paving-stone 
from the third tier of boxes crashed among the footlights near 
the speaker and rotten eggs decorated the platform. The 
police had been told by the Mayor to keep away from the 
expected scene. The speaker was not in the least disturbed, 
and of his discourse, constantly interrupted, a leading paper 
said : " It is due to him to say that his speech was inoffen- 
sive in terms, dispassionate, argumentative, and patriotic. 
The infuriate mob was stirred by the presentation of the 
fact that the poor whites have been degraded and oppressed 
to sustain the despotism by which they are debased." It 
was himself more than his sentiments that the mob attacked. 
In Chicago no attempt at disturbance was made, ample 
police force being provided by the city on the two evenings 
in which he lectured to the delight of decorous and appre- 
ciative audiences, as also the}^ were in Madison and Mil- 
waukee. It was the general impression throughout his 
circuit that the orator had abandoned disunion sentiments 


and was now for the Union because it would cast out slavery 
and also keep its own integrity. But sundry pro-slavery 
sheets, West and East, kept up the old howl, as dogs do 
after the object of their hate has passed by, turning to their 
kennel with a growl at the remembrance of their foe. 

By the 17th of April Mr. Phillips was speaking again in 
Boston on Washington and the West. The day before, 
the first step toward emancipation had been taken by the 
abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia after twenty- 
eight years of agitation. He had not expected to live to 
see so much, and it gave him good hope that those in middle 
life might see the whole continent free. "The bold word 
that the President's message had spoken telling the South 
that now was the time to sell slaves to him: he would buy 
— v/as the first anti-slavery act of the Government. Enough 
to accomplish in a year. He is appealing to the people. 
How far may I go ? Answer him. The Gulf states want 
slavery without the Union. The Border states want slavery 
and the Union. The North wants Union without slavery. 
You cannot save slavery and the Union. Support the 
President; endorse Sumner and sa}^ Death to every insti- 
tution that makes war upon the Republic and liberty to 
every man under its flag." 

The speaker's recent tour of Western states had enlarged 
his vision and given him national views, which made preju- 
dices and policies of his home city appear narrow and 
timid, and its support of the war, while loyal, was without 
enthusiasm and tempered by cautious conservatism. He 
feared they were not moving now so fast as the slow Presi- 
dent. He tried to move them to speed the Administration, 
while they in turn were "looking back toward burning 


Sodom to see if there were a possible chance of saving dry 
goods and bad debts." 

He spoke in New York next, declaring that the abolition 
of slavery was a foregone conclusion through the military 
action of the Government, which had already suspended 
the Fugitive Slave Law and offered to buy slaves. The 
heart of the people was set on emancipation and would 
accomplish its purpose. The help of the blacks was needed 
as a breakwater against the barbarism of the South. They 
only ask justice; "use us to save your liberty." Everybody 
in Washington looks forward to ten years of military des- 
potism. Shorten the time. Hasten the Government in 
order to save it, uphold and strengthen it in declaring 
the liberty of a race." 

The next day Phillips made another long speech in New 
York in which he remarked that the Nation after a year had 
discovered that this was a war and not a family quarrel 
merely; that the anti-slavery movement had always held 
that we were a civilized people and could lift the slave into 
liberty without a drop of blood, but forgot that the North 
was linked to a barbarous South. But the Nation is one, 
though part of it is under military governors, in two camps, 
one of which will go to the wall. 

Two days after this speech was made Gen. David Hunter, 
at Hilton Head, S. C, proclaimed, May 9th, that, "Slavery 
and martial law being incompatible, the slaves in Georgia, 
Florida, and South Carolina are therefore declared forever 
free." Ten days later the President annulled this order 
and held up to the rebellious states the offer of gradual 
"abolishment" with compensation, urging them to accept 
it as the change which would not wreck or ruin anything. 


Once more he told the army men to wait his time, and once 
more begged the South to consider a last offer, thirteen 
months after the firing upon Sumter, May 19, 18G2. But 
in this appeal there was an intimation that it might be 
indispensable to the maintenance of the Government to 
follow the example set by commanders in the field, although 
as Commander-in-chief he could not allow them to ante- 
date him. He pulled ardent generals back and behind 
him while he called to the Davis Cabinet, like an auctioneer, 
''Going, going," but before he said "gone!" he called for 
three hundred thousand men in response to the suggestion 
of nearly all the governors of the loyal states. But this 
voice of the people President Lincoln waited for, as Phillips 
said in his 11th of July address in closing Music Hall for 
the summer. Remarking upon the time as the first real 
trial of Democracy and the delay in decisive action, he 
believed in the President's honesty and good intention; 
but being what most presidents before him had been and 
had to be — followers rather than leaders — he was 
waiting for the demand of the masses to go forward. 
These, in turn, had not quite made up their mind for 
emancipation, but if he would proclaim it they would say. 
Amen. And so between President and people the only 
measure that could crush the rebellion and save the Union 
was halting. 

Meanwhile the same waiting policy kept a fine army 
decimating itself by its own picks and spades until its training 
in swamps and trenches should enable it to sustain a morti- 
fying reverse instead of taking Richmond, all the while 
refusing the help of the only men that could stand the 
climate. The demand upon the Government to employ 


them soon began to be positive, and to admit this race among 
the three hundred thousand recruits now called for/ 

On the 26th of July the President issued his proclamation, 
in accordance with an act of Congress approved nine days 
before, entitled, "An act to suppress insurrection and to 
punish treason or rebellion," — by seizing and confiscating 
the property of rebels and freeing the slaves of such persons. 
Fines, however, were to be levied upon other property than 
slaves. By this proclamation. President Lincoln had pro- 
vided for the emancipation of those bondmen only who were 
held by rebels, and incidentally recognized slaves as no longer 
property. But between the act of Congress and the welfare 
of the country, the lives of loyal soldiers and the sentiment of 
families all over the free states demanded such a proclama- 
tion. The nation was pushing him forward. 

Phillips voiced the impatience of the majority in his speech 
of August 1st, when he said of the Administration's partial 
emancipation act: 

I do not think that the Government has any purpose to 
get rid of slavery; only to end the war and save it. It is a 
political war and its policy is to extend that clemency to the 
South which they call cowardice. We all need courage to 
use the weapon ready at our hands — a million negroes. 
There are bright signs — when people begin to believe that 
McClellan is made of mud and answers no question ; and that 
Lincoln has no backbone and cannot say. No. Banks does 
not know how to handle an army, but he would have pressed 
it against something, and that is all it needed. With five 
chances to enter Richmond he would not have sat down and 
dug. AVhen the war makes us all over into men we shall 

lOn the difference of attitude toward slavery among army oflBcers see Henry Wilson's " Rise 
and Fall of Slave Power," iii., 384. 


On the 22d of August Lincoln, in reply to Greeley's 
open letter, stated his position at that time: "If I could save 
it [the Union] by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if 
I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I 
would also do that." But whether his ])reference was in the 
order indicated cannot be said. Possibly the second and 
third hypotheses should change places to make an orderly 
climax — no freedom, partial freedom, complete freedom for 
slaves. There was a significant sentence that followed: "I 
shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear true views." 
To find the truth and advisability of all the propositions 
urged took time and caused the delay which made many 

By the 22d of September he showed that his mind 
was moving on toward the crowning act of the war and 
his own career, when he proclaimed freedom of the slaves in 
states which should be in rebellion on the first day of January, 
1863. Slow as his progress toward this war measure had 
been, the country was surprised in different ways when it 
was at last announced. Some rejoiced, many were doubtful, 
and a strong minority cried out against it. The Confederates 
went wild, and talked of retaliation under the black flag. 
Its effects were seen later to justify the wisdom of the act. 

It was as late as the 19th of November when Phillips spoke 
on public affairs — at the opening of the Mercantile Library 
Association Lecture Course. He did not dwell upon the 
President's Proclamation, for a wonder, but instead insisted 
upon the necessity of carrying Northern civilization into the 
South. He believed in the President but not in his Cabinet, 
who were not supporting him. He believed most of all in 
planting the vacant slave states with schools, churches, 


primers, and sewing machines. "After long inaction what 
is needed is a Cabinet, a General, and Confiscation." 

It is plain that, as always, Phillips was looking forward 
beyond the present to the future; beyond the war to recon- 
struction. Like the halcyon day in February, he suggested 
the coming hopes of April long before the stormy days of 
winter had passed. Possibly, too, he was waiting for the 
President's message, and to see what it would do with the 
threat of emancipation before the recent proclamation should 
go into effect. It held out one more offer of delaying emanci- 
pation for thirty-seven years, or till 1900, with compensation 
to slaveholders. From them there was no answer but that 
of contemptuous rejection of all proposals. 

Therefore by the terms of the Proclamation slavery went 
out with the year 1862. The long protracted, "going,'* 
became " gone. " But the institution lingered on till the end 
of the war. 



THE Emancipation Proclamation seemed to many of 
Phillips's friends to announce the successful issue 
of his labours for twenty-six years. He did not himself 
regard it as a victory so completely won as to need no further 
attention. On the first week of 1863 he spoke in Music Hall 
to a crowded house, from which hundreds were turned 
away who wished to hear how he would take the triumph 
of his life. After reading the Proclamation he discoursed 
for an hour on How to Make it Efficient. He called it 
the retort of Freedom upon the onset of the slave system 
against our nationality. The people had driven the 
Government to abandon its policy of conciliation and 
submission and to abolish an institution inconsistent with 
the perpetuity of the Republic. With no slavery there 
can be no disunion. But there must be vigilance and 
work to secure the freedman his new liberty, lest it be 
set aside by the next iVdministration. "To three millions 
of slaves this Proclamation is sunlight, scattering the 
despair of centuries, and the blessings of the poor bear it 
up to the throne of God." 

An even more enthusiastic audience of four or five thousand 
intellectual people assembled in Cooper Institute on the 



evening of January 22d in a howling storm, crowding the hall 
to Its aisles and platform to hear Mr. Phillips say Amen to 
the Proclamation. "It does not annihilate the system. 
In the gospel the devils come back to the swept and 
garnished chambers. Unless free institutions are put 
in the South, the old order will return in some form. 
Confiscate the lands and colonize them with Northern men 
and schools, ploughshares and seeds. Send a new Govern- 
ment there. Organize the South anew if you can have the 
right leaders." 

A week later, in Boston, he called attention to that minority 
in the North which was industriously using every means to 
restore the supremacy of the Southern states over the Nation. 
He cited outbreaks in Harrisburg and Albany, the press in 
some places opposing the Government, a threatened change 
in the House and Senate to block the action of the Executive, 
and beyond all, the Supreme Court and its possible adverse 
decisions about war measures. In view of such possibilities 
his hope was in a proclamation which, while it covered only 
half the ground, planted the whole idea — that slavery is 
incompatible with the safety of the Union. This idea would 
grow and bear its own fruit. The future would reveal the 
danger from treasonable pilots through which the country is 
passing, which should be defeated by the Government assum- 
ing control of the territory and using the blacks for its pur- 
poses. It had made mistakes and they were all in the interest 
of the South. The rebels had been treated as if they were 
half right. Twenty thousand Negroes had been returned to 
slavery since the war began. Two hundred thousand were 
now to be armed by a Government at last in earnest, and 
beginning to assert that there is but one power in the Nation 


— the North. PubHc opinion was to insist upon this, con- 
gressmen to back the President. 

General doubt prevailed with regard to the ability of the 
blacks to be of much service to the Government, unless in 
throwing up defences. Spades and shovels rather than 
muskets were considered their only weapons. To disabuse 
the popular mind of this prejudice Phillips began to repeat 
the address on Toussaint I'Ouverture — a sketch made some 
years before, which its author called "at once a biography 
and an argument," a comparison and weighing of races, in 
which he placed the black close by the side of the Saxon; an 
unmixed black, his father stolen from Africa, who by the 
testimony of enemies relating his achievements, accomplished 
under adverse conditions results w^hich had been honourable 
to Cromwell and Napoleon, with a spirit of noble generosity 
which contrasts most favorably with the malignant jealousy 
of Bonaparte. 

This address, delivered in New York on the 11th of 
March, was repeated in many Northern cities at a time when 
public confidence in the Negro needed to be strengthened. 
The question was arising, What can be done with four mil- 
lion inhabitants who have inherited the traditions and received 
the crushing treatment of their race for eight generations? 
Was it safe and expedient to give them freedom and put 
arms in their hands, to say nothing of the rights of citizen- 
ship .^ It was not so easy to answer this confidently in 1863 
as to-day, nor has the entire problem been solved after forty- 
six years. But if the possibilities of a race are to be esti- 
mated by the attainments of its best examples, the African 
made a fair showing in the hands of his advocate and cham- 
pion. The eulogy was received with delight and acclaim by 


thousands, and their confidence in the future of the Negro 
during war time and after was amazingly strengthened. 
As a piece of rhetorical art, the closing paragraphs of this 
address have never been surpassed by anything which the 
writer has had the fortune to hear, nor has the aspect of the 
orator on that occasion been greatly dimmed by the subse- 
quent years. It was a vision of lofty inspiration under 
masterly control. And the assembled throng was powerless 
except to thunder its applause.^ 

Another instance of the readiness with which Phillips could 
turn his attention to local needs was seen in his address on the 
5th of May, when he spoke in Music Hall on the need of a 
Metropolitan Police for Boston. The laws, he said, had 
failed of execution when great and grave interests were 
involved, and the city had failed to do its duty. Its officials 
were a committee appointed by its grog shops. Restraining 
laws on the sale of liquors had been enacted; the city did 
not execute them, and three thousand shops were open, pro- 
ducing poverty and crime. Every known vice was fostered 
by drunkenness, and twenty-five thousand men were reduced 
to poverty or relieved by the public every year. Shut up 
the grog shops and throw a third of a million dollars into the 
sea and the city would be better off. Free speech was not 
protected. For five years he had been able to make a speech 
in New York, with the unsolicited protection of the police, 
which he could not make in Boston without being surrounded 
by armed friends. 

"Liquor shops are responsible for this. City officials are 
their servile tools. Liquor dealers are on our juries and laws 
are made of no effect. The Mayor cannot put down riots — 

^Printed ini the first voliimQ of Speeches, p. 468, 


when they do not wish to. Latimer, Sims, and Burns were 
arrested illegally. The entire state has interests in this 
city and ought to regulate its conduct. London and New 
York have been saved by the states of which they are the chief 
cities. Agitate! and we shall see the laws of Massachusetts 
rule over Boston." 

It looked as if Phillips was at last getting entangled in poli- 
tics when he spoke before the Sixteenth Ward Republican 
Association in New York on the 11th of May, 1863. But it 
was in Cooper Institute, to a crowded audience, and on The 
State of the Country — **a very respectable ward meeting," 
as he remarked. The topic of the hour was broad and full 
of interest. In this depressing time he asserted that he had 
no doubt and no despair in this strife, which was, a part of 
the great struggle between free and caste institutions the world 
over. But the South rebelled against a divided North, which 
surprised it by rallying for the Union and then for emancipa- 
tion. He believed in the Northern conscience, in events, 
in the tendency toward liberty and union. "Our leaders 
have lacked earnestness — did not want to fight, and the 
generals did not know how. There has been but one 
general, and he a Democrat, who has dared to hang a rebel. 
The President is hampered by half-hearted politicians. A 
Massachusetts general mutinied, and Massachusetts senators 
made him a brigadier-general.^ Lincoln may do anything 
to save the Union. Let them put the blacks in the field before 
the Rebels do it as their last chance to secure the assistance 
of England. Never otherwise shall the North deserve 

The war had been dragging wearily on for two years, 

^T. G. Stevenson. 


The return of Independence Day was not celebrated with 
boisterous confidence as of old. The Republican experiment 
was plainly on trial and many were beginning to doubt its 
issue. Phillips at the usual Framingham gathering felt the 
need of cheering the despondent in his address. 

It is a day of hope. There is hope in the newly appointed 
generals, sober, brave, and able, three qualities never before 
united in the field. Thirty thousand black troops are now 
under the flag, giving colour to an idea. Time has brought 
round its revenges. Justice must conquer. Even the Cabi- 
net cannot resist events. Iron in the current of Niagara is 
tossed like a chip. Our second enemy is at Washington 
arranging for the next election by saying that the Negro may 
fight for us and work for us and afterward be kicked out, 
and the whites enjoy what he has won. The New Zealand 
chief said, " I have a clear title to this land, for I ate the former 
proprietor." That is the compromise bid for the next 
nomination to peace Democrats and half-awake Republicans 
who would be glad of any way out of the strife. Negro- 
phobia is the worst enemy the Union has, and a speech 
recently made at Concord, N. H., aimed to keep it alive in 
order to make a base and ungrateful use of it. General 
Butler said, " Before I ask a Negro to fight for me he shall have 
his rights." Remember that the people rule; let them have 
the facts and checkmate the Cabinet. The next year will 
decide whether this is a revolution or a political war. Hold 
Lincoln to his pledge and discard this political bid for office. 

Phillips was watching with tireless vigilance every scheme 
that was alien or secondary to the main issue of a war for 
liberty to all the inhabitants of the land. No speech was 
made, no editorial of consequence printed, that he did not 
measure by this standard. Nor were there any forms of 
criticism or invective unused by this master of public speech. 


Men high in the Administration were scored as if they were 
ward pohticians. A watchman on the citadel, he descried 
the approach of danger afield and caught with quick ear 
the whisperings of conspiracy beneath and within the walls. 
The close of the year was marked by his address at Cooper 
Institute on the danger of nullifying the President's 
Proclamation by decisions of the Supreme Court, and on 
its limited reach in declaring slaves free instead of abolishing 
slavery as an institution. As beyond the possibility of its 
return he would have an amendment to the Constitution 
demanded by the people, providing that "no state shall 
make any distinction among its citizens on account of 
race or colour"; and, further, to provide the Negro 
with land and education as the first steps toward good 
citizenship, and, incidentally, the cotton crop would be trebled. 
He was already looking forward to the problems of recon- 
struction when the war was, in his opinion, but half over; 
and with a prophet's vision he discerned the drift of events 
and saw the channels through which the tide of affairs 
must flow. Few men had their predictions more faithfully 
fulfilled. Not all of them, to be sure, but enough to justify 
him as a wise observer of the times. 

On the first day of 1864 a Boston paper said: *'If ever 
there was season of dire distress, it is now. Victory flutters 
on our standard, but sorrow and gloom sit on the heart of 
the people. As long as Negroes are the principal class for 
whose interests the Government contends, so long will 
public discontent continue. Abolitionism has ridden into 
power and promises to enthrall all those true friends 
of the Union who dare desert from its revolutionary doc- 
trines." A Milwaukee paper asked, "Will the American 


people never give over their systematic worship of humbug 
and look upon preachers and lecturers who seek to over- 
throw the Union as moral monstrosities ? " A New York 
journal charged them with "preserving the Union only 
to help the Negroes," and an Albany sheet declared that 
"Radical Abolitionism and Radical Democracy were of one 
accord in denouncing the conduct of the war, but for differ- 
ent reasons." Certainly the entire North was not in accord 
with the agitator. 

Phillips's view of affairs is clearly set forth in his speech 
of January 25th, supporting resolutions to the effect that, 
" In our opinion, the Government, in its haste, is ready to 
sacrifice the interest and honour of the North to secure 
a sham peace; risking the introduction into Congress of a 
strong Confederate minority to embarrass legislation, and 
leaving the freedmen and the Southern states under the 
control of the late slaveholders, embittered by their defeat 
in war, entailing feuds for another dozen years; and we 
listen in vain to the Republican party or press for any 
protest sufficient to avert the sacrifice. The Southern 
quarrel is for aristocracy — it is a war of ideas. Let it be 
ended by cannon, not politics. Overbearing pride expects 
to govern if it comes back, not to cooperate. What will 
become of the black men who have been tempted to the 
unpardonable sin of helping the North ? Their technical 
liberty is of little worth. Unless slavery and the aristocratic 
element that gave it birth be rooted out the cause goes back- 
ward. Let the rebel have anything the Nation can give him 
in safety to itself." 

Among the newspaper comments on the times, a 
Hartford journal declared that a discussion between Phillips 


and Garrison on the merits of the Administration was con- 
sidered of sufficient consequence to be telegraphed all over 
the country, and added that the policy of the war was 
shaped to suit the abolitionists. Doubtless this assertion 
of their influence at Washington had more of truth than 
other newspapers were willing to admit. Certain it is that 
in the war years Phillips had interviews with the 
President and conveyed to him his ideas of public ques- 
tions without reserve. The difference between the two lead- 
ers of abolition was small, Phillips contending that the 
Administration was not moving so fast as popular opinion 
and Garrison believing that it was. The temperament of 
the two men was somewhat pessimistic and optimistic, 
respectively; but there was no such radical disagreement 
as sundry public sheets proclaimed. 

A reception given to the old-time friend from England 
on his third visit to this country, George Thompson — who 
was the indirect cause of the " mob in broadcloth " of twenty- 
nine years before — gave Phillips an opportunity to speak 
of the English attitude toward this country, and particularly 
of its opinion-making press. But Bright in Great Britain 
and Grant here, he observed, were fast settling that opinion 
right. Even the English abolitionists had sympathized 
with the rebellion, having been taught by their American 
co-workers that disunion meant the overthrow of slavery; 
and they had not unlearned the lesson so fast as Ameri- 
can agitators had discovered another way out of the difficulty. 
Thompson could understand and explain this better after 
his visit in 1864. 

About this time a great miscegenation outcry had been 
raised out of sundry " amalgamation-of-the-races " remarks 


by Phillips on the 4th of July in the year before. The whole 
matter was best disposed of by the Boston JournaVs remark, 
that it knew of no abolitionists who advocated it, but it 
was widely practised in that portion of the Union where 
an abolitionist, if caught, would be hung to the nearest tree. 

In his review of the year at the annual meeting of the 
American Society in Cooper Institute, Phillips remarked 
upon the recent gain which once would have required a 
quarter of a century to secure. The work had almost been 
taken out of anti -slavery hands, and the laurel was worn by 
a man whom the world believed was an abolitionist. The 
President was moving but had not reached the goal; the 
army was subjugating but not converting; Russia was the 
only foreign power on our side; all Unionism was gone in 
an exasperated but not conquered South; half every man's 
income from capital was going to pay war expenses; and 
the issue doubtful. Therefore he demanded of his fellows 
to push on the Administration by the minority which always 
rules in a Nation — as slavery had for seventy years. He 
was not speaking for the rights of the Negro, who was linked 
with the future and will share the country's fortunes. Alto- 
gether he took a cheerful and hopeful view, believing that 
the goal of universal freedom and equality would be reached. 

A few days later he asserted that he had not an element 
of despondency, but was as full of faith in God and Democ- 
racy as ever, and believed that the North would eventually 
give law down to the Gulf and make the South over in its 
own image and establish not a seeming Union but a perfect 
Republic. And then followed an example of that extrava- 
gance of speech into which his personal preferences some- 
times led him. "It would have been done already, if the 


man who is asking to be reelected in November had not 
lagged behind public opinion. If Fremont or Butler had 
been at the head of affairs the rebellion would not have 
lasted twelve months. The people panted to be allowed 
to act while they submitted to the dull burden of McClellan 
— and now the war is waged with a view to the next presi- 
dential election. What does Mr. Lincoln mean to do in 
the future? Let him build the State; give the black man a 
vote, education, and land; look up to justice, to the rights 
of every man under the law." 

Meantime Lincoln was receiving commendation from 
abroad and at home for his steady advance, though slow, 
toward an abiding peace through complete victory, although 
condemned by Copperhead leaders who nominated Mc- 
Clellan; and maligned by rebels as a despot whose policy 
had separated the Union into two nations essentially foreign. 

After four months of silence, on the eve of the election, 
October 20th, Phillips spoke in Tremont Temple on the 
issues of the presidential campaign. Of the war he 
said, that it was the death grapple of irreconcilable ideas 
brought face to face in 1789, which had contended with 
arguments and votes for weapons for seventy years, with 
at last an appeal to arms by slavery; a struggle that would 
go on until it or freedom should gain a complete victory, 
how soon none could tell. The present question was to 
see that the Nation reaped the greatest possible advantage 
from the war and secured freedom forever for every one. 
Lincoln's plan of reconstruction put all power into the 
hands of the unchanged white race, making black free- 
dom a sham, continuing the war at Washington after 
it was over in the field. Lack of purpose had brought 


about a united South and a divided North; an aristocracy 
versus a Democracy. 

Leave a square inch of the slave system and we shall be 
ruled as before. The South in '61 expected Northern 
submission as usual; but the abolitionists by thirty 
years of agitation have lifted the people to a higher level, 
who clutched at the opportunity to reconstruct the 
Union on an anti-slavery basis for permanence; and now 
the fight is for Union and the liberty of the Negro. But 
Mr. Lincoln's halting policy for the last four years is not to 
be desired in the next four. Positive and vigorous in 
everything else, he has been wavering on the slave question 
and may be still tender toward the slaveholder and unjust 
to the Negro. His emancipation act he knows might be 
easily set aside by a Supreme Court. He will obey the 
strongest if elected. Support any man who is resolved to 
end this war so as to establish justice for all men of 
every race. 

It is plain that there was no candidate adapted to Phil- 
lips's standard except Fremont, whose resignation from the 
army to accept nomination the great agitator could not 
approve, in view of the temper that his hero had at last 
displayed, although with some justification. Moreover, his 
criticism of Lincoln was regarded by Garrison as ill-timed 
and unjust in representing the President in the worst light ; 
damaging his chance of reelection, and tending to further 
the schemes of the Copperheads. 

Notwithstanding Phillips's strictures the President was 
reelected, and in his message gave great encouragement to 
the abolitionists by his avowal that he would not permit 
the return of slavery in his administration. On the 31st of 
January, 1865, the House concurred with the Senate in 


passing the amendment to the Constitution which abohshed 
and prohibited slavery in every part of the Repubhc. 

Although Phillips saw difficulties in the way of immediate 
realization of a hope long deferred, he turned at once to the 
coming question of reconstruction in his address before the 
annual meeting of the Massachusetts Society, in which he 
criticized the unfairness to the Negro in what he called 
"Banks's Freedom" in the Louisiana plan of reconstruction, 
with no liberty for the freedman to make a contract for his 
own labour and the time and place of it. "This was not 
liberty according to Northern interpretation. Freedmen 
are not apprentices." 

In view of the approaching fulfilment of their hopes and 
labours for a generation there was some talk of dissolving the 
Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society at its meeting on the 28th 
of January, 1865. Garrison had prepared a resolution call- 
ing a special meeting to commemorate the passage of the 
abolition amendment to the Constitution after it should be 
ratified, and then to terminate the Society's existence. Bron- 
son x^lcott, in a short speech intended to be complimentary 
but also discriminating, pointed out Phillips as the leader in 
new methods, and that Garrison was falling behind the times. 
This criticism called out protests from both men. But in 
Garrison's the note of dissolution was given plainly in these 
words : " AYhat do we want of an anti-slavery society when 
there is no slavery in the country ? The thing is an absurdity. 
There will be other w^ork to be done, but we shall unite with 
great mass of the people in carrying forward the struggle for 
equal political privileges." Phillips disclaimed any pleasure 
in allusions to himself and Garrison as antagonists, and ac- 
corded all praise to the pioneer w^ho had been the inspiration 


of the movement and was still its leader. He then called 
attention to his view of the main question before the meeting: 
The ballot for the Negro to be demanded of any rebel state 
as the condition of its return to the Union. He wanted not 
only emancipation but the ballot; and the anti-slavery body 
to stand behind the weak Republican party. " We who have 
given thirty years to the study of one question understand it 
better than the converts of yesterday. Shall we now sit down 
and trust everything to novices ? They may help or hinder 
the great question of righting a race. Justice and absolute 
equality before the law is the high-water level of American 
politics and no Nation can be safe till its labouring class is 

In the midst of continued advocacy of freedmen's rights he 
could take up other issues, as when on the 8th of February he 
appeared before a legislative committee to urge the enforce- 
ment of the law against the sale of intoxicating drink, showing 
how old such enactments were, and that the special tempta- 
tion of country towns was strengthened by nearly two 
thousand open places for the sale of liquors. "Hide their 
sale and men are saved." In a different strain and an 
example of his versatility was an address of welcome to Rev. 
David A. Wasson on his becoming successor to Theodore 

April was to be filled with historic events for abolitionists 
and the rest of the country. The fall of Richmond on the 3d ; 
Garrison's sailing on the 8th as a guest of the Government to 
be present at the re-raising of the flag at Fort Sumter on the 
14th, four years from the day when Major Anderson was 
compelled to lower it; the surrender of General Lee on the 
9th; the last speech of the President discussing the questions 


of Reconstruction on the 11th, in which he expressed hopes 
of a righteous and speedy peace, and announced the prepara- 
tion of a call for a National Thanksgiving — which was 
suddenly turned into a day of mourning by his assassination 
on the evening of the 14th — these were more memoral)le 
occurrences than had been crowded into any fortnight or 
single year of American history. The chief event, however, 
was the last of personal demonstrations in behalf of the 
" domestic institution." The opening act of private hostility 
was the cowardly assault upon a Senator; the final, the 
greater cowardice of murdering a President. And all the 
acts between were not entirely chivalrous. It was fitting 
that Garrison should pronounce its doom, when, standing 
by the tomb of Calhoun he said, " Slavery has gone 
down into a deeper grave than this, and there is no resur- 
rection for it."^ 

Phillips was not among the notables who went to Charles- 
ton. At the mass meeting in Tremont Temple, April 23d, 
" to consider the great question of our country and its perils, " 
he began by remarking that these were sober days when the 
judgments of God have found us out. The sin of the Nation 
had been passed by, but God had set it before the world in 

^What it cost to bury it may be noted here. In reply to an inquiry of the War Department 
it is stated that " the whole number of deaths among officers and enlisted men as shown by 
official records was 359,528. The actual number must be somewhat larger because many of 
the records, especially those of Southern prisons, are far from complete. The wounded on 
the Union side is estimated from surgical reports at 280,040, also below actual number. No 
statement can be made concerning Confederate losses that would be at all reliable." Dated, 
Washington, D.C., March 9, 1907. 

From the careful and tnistworthy computations of Colonel Thomas L. Livermore in his 
"Numbers and Losses in the Civil War," Boston, 1901, p. 63, the following summary is taken, 
in abridged form: Number of enlistments in the Union army, 2,898,304; in the Confederate 
army, 1,239,000. Killed and wounded in the Union army, 385,245; in the Confederate army, 
329,000. A total of 714,245. 

In reply to an inquiry of the Treasury Department as to the financial cost of the Civil War 
the following was received: " In the year 1879 it was estimated, and reported to Congress, that 
the expenditures then amounted approximately to $6,190,000,000. This sum has been 
increased since that date by payments for pensions, interest on the Civil War debt, and for 
miscellaneous charges and claims growing out of the war to approximately $10,000,000,000, 
Dated January 4, 1908. 


dazzling light. Barbarism had culminated in assassination 
of the President. 

The martyr sleeps in the blessings of the poor whose fetters 
God commissioned him to break, and he has sealed the 
triumph of the cause he loved with his own blood. Who 
among the living may not envy him ? leaving a name immor- 
tal in the sturdy pride of one race and the undying gratitude 
of another, withdrawn at the moment when his star touched 
the zenith, and the Nation needed a sterner hand for the work 
God gives it to do. . . . With prejudices hanging about 
him, he groped his way very slowly and sometimes reluctantly 
forward; let us remember how patient he was of contradiction, 
how little obstinate in opinion, often forgetting justice 
in mercy. Coming time will put him in that galaxy of Ameri- 
cans which makes our history the day-star of the nations, 
with a more loving claim on our gratitude than those who 
were not called upon to die for their cause. 

The entire tribute^ is characteristic of its author. He 
could praise virtues for which he himself was not distin- 
guished, and while he did not recant his criticism of official 
tardiness — as he understood it — he showed the fullest 
appreciation of Mr. Lincoln's personal qualities of patience 
and kindheartedness, all the time bating no fraction of his 
own inflexible consistency. Men and brethren alike, living 
or departed, were measured or remembered by their con- 
formity to his own inexorable standard of righteousness and 

In his unflinching gaze at the course of events he was 
not blinded by the fearful tragedy. He saw an impending 
amnesty, approaching compromise — the old weakness of 
the Nation — put aside, and a sterner regime promised, if 

^Printed in the second volume of his Speeches. 


not secured. As a Copperhead journal in New York said, 
"We are now twenty-five millions of abolitionists." The 
trumpet had sounded a final note, gathering in the entire 
North and some of the South, repudiating the plot of a few 
barbarians. Its recoil finished the rebellion and its chances 
of resuscitation. All this has been more evident to the Nation 
since April, 1865, than it was then; but the man who had 
pressed straight on for thirty years toward a goal which 
even then was not quite attained saw just how far the race 
was run and that complete success was still an arm's 
length away. 

For this reason he protested against two measures advo- 
cated by his abolition comrades — the dissolution of anti- 
slavery societies and the discontinuance of their organs. 
In a card addressed to the members of the American Society 
he asked, "What right, under its pledges, has the Society 
to disband while the system of slavery remains legal under 
the Constitution, or while slavery remains, both substantially 
and technically, and before any decisive action has been 
had on the Constitutional Amendment ? When every 
slave is freed and the system itself legally ended, it will be 
time to consider what is then our duty." To this the editor 
of the Standard replied in substance, that the Nation had 
taken up the work which the Society had prosecuted for 
thirty years, and that there was little left for it to do alone 
except by making distinctions without a difference from 
the work of the country at large. 

The question at issue between Phillips and his followers 
on the one side and the editors of both the principal anti- 
slavery journals and their followers on the other was as to the 
sufficient completeness of their work, and if nothing more 


could be done by the Society as such. Time showed that 
there was need for the efforts of every agency. This question 
was thoroughly thrashed out at the annual meeting of the 
Society. There it was proclaimed by the advocates of 
dissolution that Negro suffrage was not one of the primary 
purposes of the Society, but emancipation only. This 
being practically accomplished, it was absurd to continue. 
Abolitionists were not the special and only advocates of 
ballot for the Negro. 

On the other side, Phillips held that the Government 
of the United States did not at that date acknowledge the 
existence of the Constitutional Amendment, and slavery 
was a logical element of the Constitution. Moreover, the 
system of slavery lived still in the statute book. In the eye 
of the law it was untouched; and as a matter of fact there 
were hundreds of thousands still labouring under the lash 
and in the same bonds as in 1860. 

Neither the sword nor proclamations have reached them. 
We shall reach them, but we have not yet. It is no time 
to disband while there is a slave to free on any plantation 
this side the Gulf of Mexico, and land and the ballot to be 
given him. Continue the persistence and devotion of 
thirty years. There is no substitute for it in the new organi- 
zations. While there is a single slave and one act to be 
done to ratify the Amendment, this Society has no right to 

After further discussion, which came near being heated, 
it was voted to continue the Society, and Garrison was 
elected president. He declined the compliment as incon- 
sistent with the position he had taken, and Phillips was 
elected, as the chief advocate of continuing the organization. 


His next appearance was at the annual meeting of the 
Emancipation League in Boston on the 29th of May, when 
he discussed "the great question of the hour " — How large 
a step forward will give absolute security? — and advocated 
demanding of the Administration "reconstruction on a 
basis of equality for both races." 

On the 19th of December the announcement was made 
upon official authority that the abolition of slavery and its 
prohibition forever were engrafted upon the United States 
Constitution and had thus become a part of the law of the 
land. The Senate had adopted this measure in x\pril, 
1864, by a vote of 37 yeas to 6 nays; the House of Represen- 
tatives passed it on the 31st of January, 1865, by a vote of 
119 to 56. The year closed with ratification by twenty-nine 
states, mone than the required three-fourths; California, 
Oregon, Iowa, and New Jersey being added later. Of it 
the Liberator said: "It is the final crowning and completion 
of the labours of the American abolitionist as such. It is 
that great end for which they have toiled so earnestly, so 
perseveringly, so uncompromisingly in dark days, in evil 
days, amidst obloquy, persecution, ridicule, violence, and 
amongst an unbelieving and unwilling people. It is a 
triumph which they saw in the distant future, but never 
expected to see in the mortal body. . . . We cannot 
express the feelings of gratitude and joy with which we 
think upon this grand result of all anti-slavery effort. 
We repeat, the anti-slavery work is done. The Nation, by 
a vast majority, has confessed the principles of the move- 
ment to be just, and has overthrown slavery." It added, 
that though so much had been accomplished there was no 
warrant to relax diligence, and that the emancipated 


must be shielded from the suffering which must accompany 
the transition from bondage to manhood and to the rights 
and opportunities so long withheld, and in making freedmen 
freemen and citizens. 

This change in the Constitution would mark the close of 
the Liberator's thirty-five years of labour. Accordingly, in 
the issue of the 29th of December, 1865, Mr. Garrison 
wrote his valedictory, reviewing its history from humble 
beginnings as a *' disturber of the peace," maligned by the 
South, and repudiated by the North, while opening its 
columns to opposition and denunciation and vilification, 
and also to free discussion of all sides of every question. 
Meantime, he had the satisfaction of frequent testimony 
to its elevating and quickening influence upon many lives 
and its aid in abolishing a gigantic evil in the Nation. This 
extermination of chattel slavery having been consummated, 
it was best to let the paper's existence end, and leave the 
rest of the work to other instrumentalities under new auspices, 
with millions instead of hundreds for allies. 

Better to be in a minority of one with God — branded 
as madman, incendiary, fanatic . . . mobbed by the 
populace, in defence of the Rights than like Herod, hearing 
the shouts of a multitude crying, "It is the voice of a god 
and not of man!" 

And then, with a paragraph of affectionate and grateful 
farewell to friends and patrons, he dropped his pen. 




AS Hx\S been observed, Phillips did not think the time 
had come to discontinue organized effort for the 
welfare of the Negro, nor to suspend publication of a recog- 
nized organ of the movement. To be sure, there was not 
so much to be done in the way of freeing blacks from bond- 
age as before the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, 
although in several remote districts they were still practically 
in thraldom; but there was much to be accomplished before 
their condition could be compared to that of the poor whites 
even. So, likewise, there was no public journal that quite 
filled the place of the Liberator and the Anti-slavery Standard. 
Accordingly, as Phillips had consented to be president of 
the surviving Society, he also became the sponsor for its 
surviving organ, the Standard, of which Aaron M. Powell 
took editorial charge. 

The question of dissolving the Massachusetts Society 
also came up at the annual meeting in Boston, at 
which Phillips again prevailed over all opponents, thus 
saving it for special service during the stormy period 
of reconstruction. It was a cloudy time for abolitionists 
on account of their divided host and differing counsels, 
when the old approach to unanimity would have been 



better for their common object, whatever their methods. 
But PhilHps kept cheerful and charitable till the end 
was atta^ined; and then everyone could afford to follow 
his example. 

Meantime, a noteworthy change occurred in the attitude 
of the city of Boston toward him. His fellow-citizens, 
represented by the School Committee of his native city, 
had in 1865 recognized him in a public way for the first 
time by asking him to address twelve hundred children of 
the schools at their annual festival. It was a good intro- 
duction to a new generation, which would be in greater 
harmony with his purpose than the one to which he had 
been a wild prophet of an impossible kingdom of the future, 
as they believed. Both generations together listened with 
delight to an address which the older hearers were afraid 
might contain something incendiary. But it did not. It 
was reminiscent of his own school days; of the welcome 
to Lafayette, of the Latin School, of the good name Boston 
had borne from the Revolution down, enforcing the obliga- 
tion of upholding its fame by being better citizens than the 
fathers and making the city stand for good learning and 
character, love of liberty and a refuge for the oppressed of 
all lands. The children were delighted and parents were 
relieved that nothing more radical had been uttered than 
the generality of the closing sentence about "the oppressed 
of all lands. "^ 

The policy of Lincoln's successor justified Phillips's 
feeling that organized effort for freedmen's rights could 

^In this address occurs one of the remarkable prophecies which he made in science as well 
as in politics: "We have invented a telegraph, but what of that? I expect if I live forty years 
to see a telegraph that will send a message without wire, both ways at the same time." If 
he had lived thirty years he would have seen the old problem of Winckle^, 1746, and his 
successors, solved by Marconi, in 1895. 


not safely be abandoned. The sudden change that came 
over Andrew Johnson's repubhcanism, such as it had been, 
was as disappointing to his party as it was encouraging to 
the Confederacy. Whether he feared his predecessor's 
fate by the assassin, or was ])lanning to succeed himself, 
or had both contingencies in mind, he certainly entertained 
only as a second or third purpose any advantage to the race 
which had been formally declared free. "Johnson govern- 
ments," set up with unseemly haste in several Southern 
states, not only excluded coloured people from deputations 
to frame constitutions, but regarded loyal men in the South 
as enemies, and white men from the North, who were exer- 
cising their right to settle anywhere in re-united country, 
as intruders. With malign ingenuity codes were framed 
to keep Negroes under the control of planters, and secluded 
from the reach of any who could tell them of their new privi- 
leges as citizens of free commonwealths. Once more 
all blacks in the Gulf states were practically bondmen 
and subject to stripes and the pillory; all their friends were 
vagrants liable to fines and imprisonments. The shadow 
had gone backward on the dial of freedom, and reconstruc- 
tion needed reconstructing from the start. Congress 
undertook the difficult task with no little hesitation, on 
account of the superhuman wisdom needed, but also with 
no long delay, because the headstrong and partisan precipi- 
tancy of the Chief Magistrate had made immediate and 
corrective measures imperative. Even then, his obstinate 
partiality to rebel states vetoed wholesome legislative acts 
as often as they were passed, which, in turn, were re-passed 
over his vetoes. 

While the majority in Congress was trying to neutralize 


the waywardness of the President, himself backed by a 
minority in the Cabinet, Senate, House, and by a South | 
from which he hoped support in the next election, and while 
the whole country was in dissension and distraction about 
the future, Phillips, with his unwavering and lifelong principle 
of justice for all men, laid his course unchanged; helm and 
prow were in the line of the long, straight wake behind him, 
and the haven for which he was making was the same as 
in 1835. In that year he put forth with a little company 
derided by everybody else; now, a Nation was looking on 
as he neared port and all were asking, What will he say and 
,do ? From Congress a Massachusetts Senator called to 
him, *'Hold the Societies together; the crisis is grave. You 
and they are doing indispensable work; in this I express the 
conviction of every Senator and Representative on our side 
of pending questions."^ Thus by the highest authority 
his determination to prolong the Societies' efforts and life 
was justified. The situation they were to meet was pointed 
out in one of his resolutions offered in May, 1866: 

The Rebellion has not ceased; it has only changed its 
weapons. Once it fought, now it intrigues; once it 
followed Lee in arms, now it follows President Johnson 
in guile and chicanery; once its headquarters were in 
Richmond, now it encamps in the White House. The 
President has betrayed the loyal North, is bent on giving 
it over into the hands of its unconquered foe; he should 
long ago have been impeached for the use of his powers 
to aid rebellion, etc. 

Hn a letter to Mr. Phillips dated "Senate Chamber, ist May, 1866," Mr. Sumner wrote: 
" I trust that the Society, which has done so much for Human Rights, will persevere until 
these rights are established throughout the country on the impregnable foundation of the 
Declaration of Independence. This is not the time for any relaxation of the old energies. 
Slavery is abolished only in name. The slave oligarchy still lives and insists upon ruling 
its former victims." — Blagden MSS. 


In his speech on these resolutions he noted the 
hindrances to the complete reaping of just results of the 
war by reason of disagreements between Congress and 
the President who, if he had fulfilled the hopes of his 
party, would have settled the questions of rights for the 
freedmen in addition to the privileges which had been won 
for them. 

At this time Phillips's signed editorials were frequently 
appearing in the Standard. That of August 4th on the 
Adjournment of Congress preferred against it the charge 
that, having full power in its hands, it left the Negro without 
protection in the rebel states and that the Freedmen's 
Bureau was checkmated by the traitor President. 

The exhortations that came to him from congressmen 
to keep straight on with his life work were echoed by the 
North at large in calls to tell towns and cities what he 
thought should be done in that time of perplexity and 
disquiet. Turning his back on solicitations to accept a 
nomination for Congress from his district in 1866,. pre- 
ferring the wider range of the lecture platform and the 
independence which no political alliance should hamper, 
he went forth once more, early in 1867, on a circuit of 
twelve thousand miles, in which he delivered over 
sixty discourses on the crisis, interspersing them with 
temperance lectures on Sundays. To have accom- 
plished this tour and what it involved entitles him more 
than any other man of his time, if not of all time, to the 
distinction of public instructor at large, especially when 
the size and variety of his audiences are considered; not to 
mention the exceptional charm of his eloquence, which 
won him engagements months in advance, and hundreds 


more of invitations to speak than there were days in the 

There were diverse views of PhiUips's decision in Sep- 
tember, 1866, not to accept the nomination for Congress by 
the Workingmen's Convention. He preferred the inde- 
pendence of irresponsibihty to a constituency, and the 
freedom to criticize those who were responsible. His friends 
thought that the position of congressman would add to 
the weight of his utterances, and his foes expected that, 
plunged in practical work with legislators, his extreme views 
might be modified; especially since he had shown wisdom 
and caution equal to the best politicians whenever occasion 
had required deliberation. Others hoped that the severity 
of his words might be lessened, to accord with the genuine 
benevolence of his disposition and character, if he were 
associated with other Representatives. He himself feared 
such restraints upon his freedom as the leader of public 
opinion which he chose to be, rather than an interpreter 
by legislation. The press of his section urged his accept- 
ance; that of remoter regions, for different reasons, com- 
mended his declination. 

The words he spoke on a hundred platforms now found 
thousands of readers in many journals, but the Anti-slavery 
Standard had become the recognized and authorized reporter 
of his speeches. A bequest of $10,000 by Francis Jackson 
might have gone to this paper in its battle for the enfran- 
chisement of the blacks; but a minority of the executors 
diverted its funds to the Freedmen's Union prematurely, 
and added to Phillips's burdens a financial responsibility 
which would have been relieved by another interpretation 
of Mr. Jackson's will. Fortunately, his private resources, 


which had helped him in all the years of his warfare, were 
sufficient to keep the Staridard from extinction; while his 
contributions to its columns on important questions in that 
disturbed time became increasingly frequent, as well as 
upon the minor but ever-present topics of intemperance 
and labour troubles, the one often causing the other. He 
could, however, turn aside upon occasion to academic 
address; as when he charmed the literary societies at Vassar 
College with a talk on Street Life in Europe. But the 
doings of Congress were his chief concern, and his criticism 
of them sharp and bold. It is probable that the speeches 
and opinions of no one of the national legislators were so 
read and heeded as those of this free-lance, faring forth 
alone to attack whatever wrong provoked his righteous ire, 
and to defend whatever cause or person needed protection 
and friendly help. 

It was not an extraordinary feat to attack Andrew John- 
son, whom his own party was ready to impeach for obstructing 
legislation which was working to complete the destruction 
of slavery and to reestablish the peace and integrity of the 
Union. Naturally, the busy vetoer did not escape Phillips's 
tongue and pen. 

If Andrew Johnson had done his duty, if he had stood 
where the country supposed he would stand when they 
placed him in power, this question would have been settled 
at once. But he has endeavoured to provide for himself 
a special place in the future of the Nation, and the battle 
is between himself and Congress. He does not look upon 
the South as conquered territory. The public has stood, 
until within sixty days, affecting to believe that Johnson 
was a leader to be followed, whereas he was an enemy to 
be hated, a snake to be crushed, an obstacle to be removed. 


Meantime one and another are defying the power of the 
Administration, a spectacle in Congress such as has never 
before been seen by the American people, a party standing | 
up against its own President, with an unbroken front. 

At the Cooper Institute, October 25, 1866, he said that the 
South had resumed her old purpose, and failing In the 
fight against the flag, meant to rule beneath it, to be the 
Government, with Johnson her willing and avowed tool, 
betraying the Republic to rebels. "Hand and glove with 
Jeff Davis, a prisoner in Fortress Monroe, the President 
has been the agent of leading rebels to continue the war 
on the phase of politics. . . . The real friends of the 
South are the radicals, who for a quarter of a century 
have stood upon her borders and told her that she was 
running a race that would end in bankruptcy and blood. 
They now stand ready to help her to prosperity, but not to 
make bank presidents of state prisoners." Then followed the 
suggestion to " Impeach the rebel at the White House, the 
Inspirer of mobs, and depose him, that the loyal part of the 
Nation may manage Its own Government without waiting 
for two years for a mobocrat to build up Southern aristoc- 
racy and put it back in the Senate and House to manipulate 
us into submission." He was only a little in advance of 
the foremost Republicans, proclaiming in public what they 
were whispering among themselves. A petition for John- 
son's Impeachment was already circulating In the West. 

One thing Johnson accomplished to the satisfaction of 
the party which had elected him Vice-president, whose 
policy of reconstruction he had steadily opposed, namely, 
his own political death. Who should succeed him, became 
a question of Immense consequence in view of the unsettled 


state of the South. Battles were over, but the spirit 
which inaugurated them was only scotched and still stirring 
and vengeful. Its chief demonstrations were made by a 
secret, mysterious order called the Ku-Klux Klan that for 
two years had committed outrages upon loyal citizens 
and Negroes with impunity. In Tennessee alone its member- 
ship was estimated at forty thousand, and included promi- 
nent rebels in that and other states. A reign of terror was 
established whose extent and malignity is partly indicated 
by the incomplete summary of five hundred and twenty-six 
murders and two thousand and nine whippings in different 
states, besides other methods of intimidation and torment. 
A committee of Congress stated that in Louisiana alone in 
the year 1868 there were more than a thousand murders, 
most of them chargeable to this atrocious confederacy of 

In view of these and other evidences of a rebellious 
temper the loyal pa,rt of the Nation demanded a strong 
hand to hold what had been saved at great cost, and the 
man who had settled the first difficulty was considered as 
best able to regulate the second. The storm was over, 
but Andrew Johnson had shown that it was not time to put 
the helm into a civilian's hands. The waves were still high 
and the troubled sea was casting up mire and dirt. Besides, a 
natural sentiment of gratitude won much support for General 
Grant. Phillips was not sure that he was all that could 

iFor detailed account of the organized "ghosts of the old Confederate army" see Hamilton's 
" Reconstruction Period," pp. 434-442. 

In his new paper, The Issue, of Jackson, ISIiss., ex-Governor Vardaman urges the erection 
of a monument in honour of the Ku-KIux Klan, and would have its history taught to Southern 
boys and girls. It was, he says, " the most orderly, law-respecting, law-loving body that was 
ever organized and maintained in violation of the law, and drove from power a band of human 
vampires who, under the guise of law, robbed and plundered and oppressed an outraged 
people." That is a strange view of law. — Independent, April 30, 1908, 


be desired, but trusting his long-tried theory of educating 
the people the agitator believed that they would force the 
nominee to follow the advanced position, up to which 
he himself strove to lead them. At first, however, he was 
opposed to Grant's candidacy because the soldier had been 
trained in military rather than in civil affairs. Moreover, 
the General's taciturnity had not permitted him to declare 
his position on vital questions. He was not in the 
habit of making promises. His policy was revealed most 
often by its issues. 

Coupled with his opposition to Grant was the more popular 
advocacy of Negro suffrage, which was soon to be secured 
by the Fifteenth Amendment, an improvement upon the 
Fourteenth, which had left each state to determine the 
privilege of ballot. Without this, the condition of the 
coloured citizen was unlike that of any other, and to be 
regulated by everybody but himself. It was the final 
question of great importance, still unsettled after forty years. 
But all that could then be done by national legislation was 
accomplished. The execution of constitutional provisions 
and obedience to them are responsibilities belonging to the 
present generation of rulers and citizens. To the initiative 
legislation Phillips's voice and pen contributed more than 
any other single influence of the day, as they had to the 
effecting of the two preceding changes in the Constitution, 
which recognized the manhood of the blacks as distin- 
guished from their old status, either as creatures or prop- 

The year 1866 had been full of work for Phillips. The 
dangers of reconstruction on a bad basis, with little gain, 
for the coloured population, and its abuse by former 


slaveholders, Johnson's schemes, and cono^ressional le^risla- 
tion kept him alert and active. On the platform he was as 
ubiquitous as ever, helping more than any other man 
to create public opinion; in the Standard his editorials 
appeared with increasing frequency and were copied, quoted, 
and commented on by leading journals of wider circulation. 
In the most of them, whatever the point of view, there 
was the admission of leadership and of an advanced position 
which would presently be occupied by the Republican 
party. He was no longer standing alone on the mountain 
top, calling afar to indifferent or hostile throngs below. 
These had always admired his silver speech and wondered 
at its far-reaching power, and for the time some had be- 
lieved in his sincerity; but they now saw that his predictions 
had been fulfilled and his demands justified by events; 
accordingly they followed him faster than before. 

Early in 1867 the press of the country was publishing 
Ashley's resolutions for the impeachmen-t of President 
Johnson, "for combining with the South to resist the lawful 
legislation of Congress and other high crimes and misde- 
meanors." He now had the Supreme Court as his coad- 
jutor; Congress only, through its Republican majority, 
backed by the best of the North, standing for the just 
results of the war through loyal reconstruction. Meantime 
slavery was being reestablished upon the foundation of a 
clause in the Fifteenth Amendment whereby persons con- 
victed of crime were excepted; and it was easy to trump 
up a charge against any likely Negro without money to pay 
his fine, and to sell him for the amount of it, until gangs 
of slaves were at work under the lash on many plantations, 
with no court to favour them. 


In the spring Phillips sent editorial contributions from 
Grand Rapids, Michigan, Muscatine, Iowa, Alton, of Love- 
joy fame, and from Fort Wayne, Indiana, in which he com- 
mented on the Southern situation, the restraining of the 
President, and the question of his successor. "If he should 
be a Democrat, two-thirds of the fruit of the war would be 
lost; if a compromiser, one-half; if a radical, two-thirds 
might be saved. Would Grant's military record encourage 
trust for a similar civil performance.^" The reason of the 
tour is found in reports of lectures which he was delivering, 
published in the papers of many cities. One of them 
remarked: "An opinion of his speeches should not be 
passed until twelve hours after their delivery. His words 
grow more effective and convincing hours and hours after 
you have gone out from his presence. You are pleased 
and interested while he speaks; it is not till afterward that 
he becomes wonderful to you. His great strength is his 
transcendent apperception of principles, and his clearness in 
stating them; the most entirely plain, common-sense, and 
practical man we ever heard." 



"TJHILLIPS, as President of the American Anti-slavery 
-■- Society in the thirty-fourth year of its existence, 
called it the advance guard behind which was the great body 
of earnest people determined to support its principles. He 
reverted to the beginning of his career when he pronounced 
the shibboleth of the Society with buoyant enthusiasm, 
perfectly ignorant of what slavery was and how strong its 
system. In those days he regarded Webster as a great 
statesman and almost an orator; and from afar worshipped 
Clay as a great orator and almost a statesman. Mobs 
and the murder of Lovejoy made him conscious of a Slave 
Power whose motto was Victory or Death, living as a tree 
whose trunk was in Southern soil, not yet realizing that its 
wide-spreading roots ran as far as New England. By 
and by he saw the death grapple into which abolitionists 
had been drawn. "Thirty years of fighting revealed the 
depth of the disease and prepared the North to understand 
the struggle to which it had been summoned. Now that 
it is over, we are told to take off our armour and be content. 
But with an interest as broad as humanity all great questions 
still concern an American. Momentous issues are before 
this and the next generation. The race question, ten>- 



perance, woman's position, capital, and labour furnish toil 
for years.'* 

The release of Jefferson Davis furnished Phillips's pen, 
as it did many other writers whose memories were over 
two years long, with a stirring theme. 

Davis at large and Wirtz in his grave proved the Admin- 
istration a cowardly murderer, wreaking its spite on the 
miserable tool instead of his master. Treason is no crime 
if he goes unpunished. He can be overlooked; but what 
sort of a future this course will make for the Nation cannot 
be doubted. In the event of another civil war there will 
be no risks to rebellious leaders; and no amount of barbarity 
will harm any man who orders it. He knew of attempts 
to burn Northern cities, poison communities, of plots to 
assassinate. Belle Isle and Libby prison were within his 
sight and Andersonville existed by his order, a chief of a 
savage horde, rivalled only by fiendish aborigines in his 
warranted atrocities. Now Horace Greeley goes to Rich- 
mond to contribute to a $100,000 bail and congratulate 
him on the Administration's cowardice. Crime ceases to 
be something to be checked and punished. 

The motive of this clemency is indicated in one of the 
resolutions at a meeting in May: ''Resolved, That in the 
release of Jefferson Davis, we see proof that the South is 
still triumphant in the Executive council; and lamentable 
evidence of a disposition to pqstpone the safety of the Nation 
to the supposed interests of a party." In a speech upon 
these resolutions Phillips asserted that the Republican 
party did not dare exclude the Southern states from the next 
election, hoping that they would support its candidate, 
who would be suited to their level — a non-committal 
man would do. Instead, it was the business of agitators 
to keep the people up to the demand that there shall be 


no recognition of race by the United States or state law, 
accomplishing the work begun in 1831 by securing the 
ballot for all citizens, with law, land, and the spelling book. 

His fears for the immediate future are prophetic of a more 
distant future than ever he imagined. "Demagogues will 
be just as bad in the thirty years to come. After forty years 
the crop of Andrew Johnsons is not exhausted. We must 
expect such men to grow out of the South in the future. 
How shall we make them do justice to the Negro as the 
Northern politician does to labouring men from Europe ? 
Through fear of the German or Irish vote. Give the Negro 
franchise and he will be well treated." 

By July, the Raymond-Weed Club of New York had 
inaugurated the question of the next President by naming 
General Grant. As Secretary of War, taking Stanton's 
place by Johnson's act, the General became a target for 
Phillips's criticism as a candidate for the Presidency. If 
Grant was a Republican, by what rule of party fidelity, 
he asked, did he accept the office out of which Stanton had 
been turned simply for being a Republican ? By this accept- 
ance he declared himself not a Republican and accordingly 
should not be a candidate of that party. Meantime every 
political move was for campaign purposes. The burning 
question of persecution of Southern Unionists and freedmen 
was growing worse through the delays which Johnson's 
double-dealing encouraged. Anarchy and assassination 
were rife. Whippings and hanging were common. "Regu- 
lators" and desperadoes prolonged a reign of terror.' Con- 
gress was timid and the Southern states hoped to get back 

iQn the guerrilla evil see Speed's "Union Cause in Kentucky." On the Ku-Klux Klan 
and Knights of the White Camelia. Hamilton's "Reconstruction Period," p. 434 


and so shape the laws that the coloured race would be 
thrown back into substantial serfdom, as had been re- 
peatedly declared on the floor of the Senate. The "Dawd- 
ling Congress" Phillips arraigned in a lecture with this 
title in Music Hall, Boston, on the 31st of October, in 
which he said that Congress allowed the President to defy 
its power and encourage rebellion — the man who stands 
in the most prominent position as the next candidate says 
nothing and nobody knows what he thinks. "Impeach 
Andrew Johnson, clean out the nest of unclean birds, the 
Cabinet. Grout down into the Constitution the principle 
that the Negro has every right that any white man has on the 
continent. Do it now! Do it at once! Be just to the dead. 
Register by the faith of their memories the entire success of 
the Nation for which they died. Exact to the uttermost all 
that the South lost and the North gained in that fearful 
struggle." x\nd in an editorial he urged a resumption of for- 
feited lands returned by Johnson's pardons to men who were 
driving freedmen from their neighbourhood and the ballot-box. 
The President's message urged repeal of reconstruction 
acts, withdrawal of military from the South, repudiation 
of Negro suffrage, and intimated forcible resistance if an 
attempt were made to depose him. This failed by a small 
vote despite a majority report in its favour from the com- 
mittee on impeachment. Phillips, in an editorial on 
"Congress Surrenders," came nearer billingsgate than in 
any of his printed utterances hitherto. 

Convinced that he is guilty and deserves Impeachment, 
the Fortieth Congress refuses to impeach on the ground that 
Johnson is too strong for the Republican party. . . . 
If the lackey who bloomed out into a Democrat only after 


a long and fruitless effort to make slave-owners admit him 
into their society; if the drunkard of March 4th, the swinger 
round the circle, the mobocrat of New Orleans, the dema- 
gogue, the pardon broker, coxcomb, second-hand rebel — 
if this is the Conqueror, how shall we describe the three- 
score Republican Shallows and Aguecheeks who disgrace 
the consistency of their Democratic brothers in the rebel 
109 of the state vote? 

The Republican press seemingly deplored the surrender 
of the Capitol to the White House. 

In an address in Philadelphia, November 8th, on The 
Perils of the Hour, he defined his method of criticizing 
parties and men as having no motive beyond benefitting 
the Republic and to secure the end which every good citizen 
had in view. He believed that the South had not been made 
over by the war; death only could remove mistakes, to be 
followed by new ideas in time — perhaps a long time. 

Just now it is hoping for compensation for its slaves, if 
elections go to suit them. Grant, the reticent, is the coming 
man; but one who either has nothing to say, or dares not 
tell what he thinks; neither is good timber to make a Presi- 
dent of. Why was he not in New Orleans quelling the riot 
with Sheridan ? 1 would impeach the President, pass a 
law that his pardons are void, and that the land south of 
Mason and Dixon's line belongs to the Nation. A radical 
measure ? Yes, a measure to teach one section that never 
again should the land be filled with widows and orphans, 
nor Libby and Andersonville make idiots of sons that came 
out half alive. 

Phillips enlarged upon this theme in a lecture at the 
Brooklyn Academy of Music on December 19th, in which he 
said that the Republican party had made its record, but not a 
Union man holds his life safe in the South, because the 


White House is held by a second-hand Jeff Davis. And 
this with Grant as Secretary of War and the press engaged 
for two years in explaining his reticence! Butler, Sumner, 
Wade, and Stevens do not need explaining. He knew he 
was treading on hot ashes when he touched the great soldier, 
but the harvest of his lavish sacrifice of men ought not to 
be risked by hapless confidence in any man. iVnd in his 
next editorial in the Standard he upbraided a reassembled 
Congress for not restoring Stanton, whose removal a sub- 
servient press was justifying because Grant was lessening 
expenses. But Johnson had his own reasons for keeping Grant 
in the War Office, a willing or unwilling cat's-paw, and the 
Senate its own for reinstating Stanton at the next session. 

Phillips was often criticized for his strictures on General 
Grant. To this he replied that he dealt with men as they 
were true or false to the principles he advocated, freedom 
for freedmen first and temperance next. The freedom 
of the blacks was still the subject of controversy, and the 
struggle for it had passed from the battlefield to the sphere 
of politics, where it was losing ground under Johnson's 
administration. Therefore the agitator saw no reason for 
slackening his efforts and his vigilance so long as misrule 
and murder were rife in some Southern states and reconstruc- 
tion was lagging in Congress. By his editorials in the 
Standard, and, as in the early spring of this year, 1868, on 
the platform in several cities of the West, as far as St. Paul, 
he was stirring up the country to reap the full earnings of 
the war for national freedom. 

These were fast being wasted by the policy of the 
President toward those lately in rebellion, when he was at 
last impeached for resisting the acts of Congress, and other 


crimes and misdemeanors, escaping conviction by one vote. 
His second removal of Secretary Stanton precipitated this 
action, though far from the chief cause of it, on the part 
of a thoroughly incensed Congress, which, however, materially 
weakened on the vote to convict. 

At this time, according to Republican metropolitan 
journals, anarchy and unrest prevailed in the South, where 
there was no safety nor assurance of personal liberty. Capital 
did not dare to meet the enmity awaiting it; rebels looked 
to the President for help, and loyal men leaned upon Con- 
gress; the strife of the bullet was followed by the strife of 
the ballot. The Democratic press opposed impeachment, 
a Western paper urging renewed rebellion in terms that were 
too bloody to be of any account, the frothy rage of extrava- 
gant partisanship. 

Technical failure to impeach by one vote was disappoint- 
ing to the hopes of Phillips, but the encouragement he 
extracted from a bare defeat was characteristic. 

Our whole success for thirty years past has been fed by 
just such defeats as this. The annexation of Texas, the 
Compromise of 1850, Kansas trampled in blood, Bull Run, 
the second election of Lincoln, his mvu'der; all these seeming 
defeats were victories in disguise. The traitors who 
plotted them were the only men who died by them. Polk, 
Seward, Pierce, Webster, Clay, and their fellow-conspirators 
all died by their own hands. In the light of such history 
we should read this hour. 

His explanation of this failure of the Republican senators 
from Maine and Illinois, and others, to seal the conviction 
of Johnson was their eye to the next election, political prefer- 
ment, and safety of the party, with the suggestion of femi- 
nine spite and ambition in the background, as had happened 


before in political history at home and abroad. Of the 
President he said: "The question is not whether Johnson 
is a sinner. He is an obstacle. There is no pathway 
down South except through the White House; he bars the 
door and I want it open to the farmer, the merchant, the 
mechanic, the schoolhouse, and New England ideas, to 
men who create and invent, surrounding human nature 
with comfort and lifting it up into the sunlight." 

The nomination of Grant was regarded by Phillips as 
the expression of the mixed motives represented at the 
Chicago convention. Therefore the duty of radicals 
was the same as in the last twenty years — to rouse and 
educate the people, and with fearless criticism of parties 
and their leaders to put blocks under the wheels to keep 
the carriage from going back and to drag it up higher if 
possible. He accepted Grant and the probable success 
of the Republican party as the salvation of the Union and 
the best hope for the Negro, with the loyal North in the 
saddle, to ripen the problem of reconstruction day by day, 
with justice and equal rights for all. Meantime seven 
Southern states had been admitted with the voting privilege 
restored, to l)e used by white voters chiefly, since control 
of the polls was in their hands and of legislative assemblies, 
as in Georgia, where twenty-four coloured members were 
expelled on the third of September, not without good reason.^ 

Phillips was not so completely occupied with wrongs of 
the black man that he could see no other. It was in the 
midst of all the perplexities and perils, after failure to oust 

'That there was another and a white side to reconstruction rights and wrongs cannot be 
denied by any who know the history of the period. In brief, it is a story of violent reactions: 
first, by freedmen from two hundred and fifty years of bondage; second, by whites against the 
unwise abuse of unaccustomed privilege by ignorant Negroes and their unprincipled instigators 
to partisan legislation. The Northern carpet-bagger was a poor successor to the Northern 
soldier, and came near undoing his work for the Union, 


Johnson, that another plot against certain Indian tribes 
called out a vigorous protest and arraignment of the white 
man's policy toward so-called savages. By felicitous 
examples he showed how much more chivalrous had been 
their treatment of white captives than our soldiers' instant 
murder of red men; and also cited sundry treacherous 
dealings with friendly Indians who were watching the roads 
at the request of United States troops. A brief summary 
of our general treatment of a vanishing race is concluded 
with comparisons which closed with the remark, "What 
a scene for Christianity! God bless such barbarians and 
make us like them ! " In the removal of troops to the plains 
he also saw rebels freed from military rule and loyalists left to 
the mercies of the Ku-Klux Klan — another Johnson move. 
An instance of the breadth of Phillips's sympathies 
and of the reach of his thinking occurred when he delivered 
an address in Tremont Temple on The Relation of Religion 
to Philanthropy and to Social Science. Organized Chris- 
tianity he regarded as the ice formed above the flowing 
river, a fixed principle embodying this dogma and that, 
good to stand on and walk over, but the force is in the 
moving current below it, and when that falls the ice breaks, 
or if it rises it breaks up the binding crust and carries 
it aw^ay. Religion is principle applied to every social 
need of the average man to make his life worth living, 
dividing his day into thirds for labour, rest, and sleep, 
giving mind and soul a fair chance; helping him to be 
temperate and to use the opportunities that are offered, 
and to share the profits and leisure that result from the 
combined industry of labour and capital. The Church 
had come to recognize this because the sentiment of the 


people had lifted it up to this level, as the anti-slavery 
sentiment had raised it to a plane to which it never came 
of its own accord, but instead, protesting against such radi- 
calism for thirty years. Therefore in the Republican 
party, faulty and defective as he regarded it, was the only 
chance of safety, since the loyal masses of the Nation were 
within its ranks. Behind Grant, its candidate, was a broad- 
ening purpose and resolve, and his election meant progress. 
If not elected, the spirit of slavery would reverse the results 
of the war. Negroes were now voting the Democratic 
ticket and saying, *'Do not blame us — we had to do so, 
else be shot or starve." 

When, in spite of seven rebel states and their compulsory 
votes. Grant was elected by about 6 per cent, majority of 
the whole vote. Republican success did not diminish the 
agitator's vigilance and his efforts in educating the masses 
to demand every right thing of the victorious party. He 
did not expect that the eflfects of slavery could be razed 
out in one generation. It would require a century of civili- 
zation of Christianity to remodel the complex social or 
political system arranged around it. Many Southerners 
were blindly honest, living in darkness; they needed light, 
not honesty. We should be patient fifty years, if forces 
are allowed to ripen their minds. His appeal in this move- 
ment was to the people rather than their religious and 
political rulers, just as Christ addressed the common people 
who heard him gladly, Avhile Pharisees and the Sanhedrin 
lagged behind and opposed every advance. 

This need of principles underlying our Government Phillips 
emphasized after the election of Grant — a clear, square, une- 
quivocal statement of the relation between men and laws, 


capital and labour, and a full repudiation of any legal recog- 
nition of race distinctions. The moment our laws take note 
of Negro, Indian, Chinese, Irishmen, and forget the man hid 
behind each, the seeds of discord and weakness are planted. 
"Forget the race, remember only the man. Contrast Ca- 
nadian treatment of the Indian by the laws and ours by arms 
— statesmanship with folly. So, too, hasten the day 
when cooperation shall make every capitalist a labourer 
and every labourer a capitalist. Anchor these principles 
in the Constitution." 

It was now six years from the act of emancipation, and 
Phillips said that he had no particular reason to rejoice 
over January 1, 1863, and while there rested such a cloud 
upon the present and future condition of the coloured race 
his anxiety was greater than his joy. The Negro had 
suffrage as a man has the rights of going to law — if he care to 
pay for it. He had voted at the risk of starvation and death. 
It was impossible for him to outweigh all the forces ranged 
against him. He stood alone against the Government. 
And there was no protection for person or property in the 
South to induce men or capital to go to the help of the 
blacks. Still, he did not despair. He had fair faith that 
justice would triumph, but was not absolutely certain 
that it would in the next forty years. "It all depended 
upon public opinion, upholding the radical element in the 
Republican party in amending the Constitution to guarantee 
suffrage beyond any possible state legislation. Chattel 
slavery is gone, but political slavery still remains." 

At last an amendment which Phillips had been urging 
upon Congress was passed by the Senate on the 9th of 
February, 1869: "No discrimination shall be made in 


the United States among citizens of the United States in the 
exercise of the elective franchise, or in the right to hold 
office, in any state, on account of race, colour, nativity, 
property, education, or creed." 

Phillips had frequently complained of General Grant's 
reticence, but when the brief inaugural was published he 
found little to criticize. Endorsement of the Fifteenth 
Amendment, the promise of a vigorous execution of law, 
the policy of citizenship for the Indian, the payment of the 
national debt, were measures to be thankful for, and he 
added, " Now, Soldier of the Wilderness, hammer the 
rebellion to pieces so that the name of a 'Union man' 
may be as ample protection even on the Del Norte as that | 
of a 'Roman citizen' was to St. Paul at Jerusalem." Then 
he turned to urging the ratification of the x\mendment by 
state legislatures. "The peace of the whole section and 
nation demands it. Congress, three to one, recommends it. 
The President begs for its ratification. Besiege your legisla- 
tures. One effort now is worth months of common work." 

In the winter between General Grant's election and 
inauguration, 1868-'69, Phillips was pleading on the plat- 
form for Negro suffrage. So, too, as he had turned aside 
to advocate the cause of Crete against Turkish despotism 
in the preceding summer, now in April, the Fifteenth 
Amendment having been passed, he could listen to the appeal 
of sundry women, whom he had put off until greater questions 
were settled, and appeared for them before the Massachu- 
setts Legislature to set forth their claims for female suffrage. 
This was not altogether intended as a gallant reparation 
for postponing their request. As far back as the defence 
in London of delegated women he had declared his cham- 


pionship of feminine assertion of civic rights, thus proving 
himself in one more respect in advance of his age and 
Nation; farther indeed than in the matter of shivery, as the 
lapse of time has proved, since in no large part of the land 
has woman suffrage been established, or even greatly 
desired by the majority of the sex, who seem to be uncertain 
or unconcerned about their rights and wrongs, despite 
occasional instructors. With respect to his position on 
the subject he had said in May, 1866, before the Eleventh 
National Woman's Rights Convention in New York, that 
he did not feel by any means that keen agony of interest 
in this question that he did in the slavery question or the 
temperance cause. He placed the difficulty of woman's 
advancement not in lack of legislation, but in the sentiment 
that made it unfashionable for women to make their own 
living, and the starvation wages with no chance of rising 
in the future. Fashionable women could take off the ban 
from their poorer sisters and could dictate the legislative 
policy of their husbands and fathers if they would. *' AVo man's 
influence does not need to be increased, but educated and 
made responsible, counted, and criticized. She ties her own 
limbs, corrupts her own sisters, demoralizes civilization, 
and then folds her arms, and calls it religion, or steps back 
and christens it taste. She could make her own opportunity 
if the women of a state so determined." 

This courtesy performed, he took up another cause 
which he had previously espoused, and addressed the Massa- 
chusetts Legislature on the labour question, to get a com- 
mission appointed to inquire into the condition of labour 
in the state — rates of wages, rent, prices of living, hours 
of employment. He urged that a labouring class divided 


from the rest is inconsistent with the safety of the Repubhc. 
It has to com}3at corporations to which legislatures are 
subservient. The Legislature of New York sits in the 
counting-rooms of its railroads. Corporations cannot be 
spared, but they should be made consistent with the welfare 
of the state. Workmen had to defend themselves by co- 
operating, which they could not do without more education 
than ten hours of work would give them. Eight hours 
would give them a chance at the night schools. Trades- 
union, though a great power, has provisions which are 
indefensible — makes slaves of its members and interferes 
with business and has a bad spirit behind it. The proper 
resort is a commission to learn, discuss, and decide this 
question. Cooperation will end all quarrels between 
the capitalist and the labourer. But the only consideration 
that could be expected to have weight with the committee 
was this: You must show that a man can do as much work 
in eight as he can in ten hours. He might have added, 
and that he icill do as much. 

A month later in New York Phillips spoke in a 
reminiscent strain, contrasting with the present the 
days when indifference toward the abolition cause was 
so great that the press did not condescend to 
notice its meetings; when men said, The work is too 
vast; all your waiting a dream. 

And now they are saying, " AVhat is there left to do ? 
What can be your pretence for coming together.^" It is 
a great change. Literature, the Government, the Church, 
so tardy in coming to our help, all are on our side. To be 
sure, as the Tory sentiment lingered in England and the 
Bourbon in France, so in sly corners, in the musty study 


of a Doctor of Divinity, in the empty attic which fashionable 
woman calls her mind, there will remain for a very long 
while an unexpressed prejudice against the black race. 
For fifty years you will find the ghost haunting his old 
home. But national forces are all moving in one direction 
— the equality of all races. Therefore the wisest work 
to-day is to go forward to teach the American people the 
absurdity of trying to found an empire on a single race. 
The great forces of society — not the brainless boys and 
aimless girls, the self-conceited set who imagine they are 
the fashionable world — but the men that work, mould, 
achieve, and manage the brains of the Nation, will compre- 
hend this. Somewhere there is a power that has put this 
Nation forward infinitely faster than its leaders either pur- 
posed or dared to go. We will have a politics as broad as 
humanity. Nothing that interferes with the rights of a 
great class deserves the name of government. No state 
deserves it until it acknowledges the Fifteenth Amendment. 

Phillips began an editorial in the Standard of July 3, 
1869, with this sentence: " Grant has now been President four 
months; still there is no safety for loyal men in the South.'* 
He closed it as follows: "The blood of murdered loyalists 
is on the skirts of this Administration. Why is not martial 
law proclaimed ? Is the promise forgotten .^ Is it a King 
Log with a paper sceptre that sits in the White House 
while loyal men flee for safety and rebels fire salutes under 
the Confederate flag V In a single county in Texas there 
were ten murders in three weeks of July, 1869. With 
inactivity at Washington, while diplomatically "accepting 
the situation," the South was passing under rebel control 
again; the new voters surpassing their fathers in rebellious 
feeling. Almost discouraged, Phillips called for vigilance 
and preparation for the next election, in the betrayal of the 


freedman's cause by Grant — "a second Buchanan, tem- 
porizing while the enemy gets into battle array." 

On the 23d of March, 1870, Revels, a coloured Senator 
from Mississippi, in the first paragraph of his first speech 
said : " Sir, I stand to-day on this floor to appeal for protec- 
tion from the strong arm of the Government for her loyal 
children, irrespective of colour or race, who are citizens of 
the Southern states, and particularly of the great State of 
Georgia." After citing the Negroes' fidelity to their masters 
and their families during the war instead of fomenting 
insurrection, and their services in the army after their 
emancipation, thus proving their loyalty to the entire Nation 
and their help, he reviewed their subsequent treatment in 
being disqualified to hold office, and depicted the persecu- 
tions to which as a people they had been subjected. At 
the close, Morton, of Indiana, joining in congratulations 
of many senators, remarked that in the exchange that had 
been made in the place once occupied by Jefferson Davis, 
the Senate had lost nothing in intelligence, while it had 
gained much in patriotism and loyalty. 

On the 30th of March, 1870, the President proclaimed 
that the Fifteenth Amendment had been ratified by the 
requisite three-fourths of the states and in a special message 
called upon Congress to take all means within their power 
to promote and encourage education, and upon the people 
to see to it that all who possess and exercise political rights 
shall have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge which 
will make their share in the Government a blessing and not 
a danger. 

Then Phillips wrote: "For the President we have 
hardly any words but those of gratitude. He has done 


more than his friends pledged him for. We wish he could 
see his way to a more prompt and decisive method of dealino- 
with Southern murderers; and think he has full powers. 
He has done his full share to give coloured men the ballot. 
May he soon draw the sword to protect them in its use." 
In the next and last number of the Anti-slavery Standard 
are the remarks he made at the disbanding of the American 
Society in New York, April 9, 1870. 

I congratulate you that we are met at last in the full 
noon of that day whose very dawn hardly any of us believed 
we should live to see; that at last the nation in its orofanic 
law adopts the original pledge of this Society to secure to the 
coloured race of the United States all the rights and privi- 
leges which belong to them as men and as Americans. 
Our work as an organization is accomplished, our pledge 
redeemed, our promise fulfilled, and we have nothing to 
do but to thank God and to throw our exertions henceforth 
into channels more fitting the hour which dawns upon us. 

Later in the day he made a concluding address of 
similar import, adding: 

When I was absorbed into this great movement I remem- 
ber well that it found me a very proud man; proud of the 
religious, proud of the civil institutions of the country. 
Thirty years have not brought back the young pride nor 
renewed the young trust. I go out with no faith whatever 
in institutions. I see a Government lashed by the iron hail 
of necessity to a great step. I see a Church shamed by the 
rising public opinion about it, at last, into a decent obser- 
vance. My only joy to-day is that I can look into the face 
of the world and read the first line of the Declaration of 
Independence without a blush and say in the presence of 
Nations: At last there is no enormous, portentous crime 
which you can point at to mar that declaration. 



IT WAS natural that Phillips should not be entirely carried 
away by the enthusiasm of his audience at the last 
meeting of the American Anti-slavery Society. He after- ^ 
ward recalled the ovation he then received as the crowning 
joy of his career and a compensation for all its labours. 
But, as his speech declared, and as subsequent events have 
proved, the equality of rights which the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence asserted, after the manner of French Revolutionists, 
and which the Constitution repeated in an amendment 
almost a century later, was far from reality — a promise 
and a hope only, which have not even yet been fully realized. 
All that legislation could then accomplish had been secured; 
the rest must be left to forces and influences of another 
kind and to time, the gradual moulder of peoples. As long 
as he lived the champion of one race's rights would concern 
himself about them; but henceforth he would also turn 
his attention more fully to other issues which were assuming 
a new importance. 

After thirty-three years of unwearied activity, without 
much encouragement in the first two-thirds of that time, 
he might consider the eventide triumph of his main purpose 



a signal to retire from active service at the age of sixty. 
But the habit of a hfetime was as strong as his mind and 
body. He was in the prime of maturity when the accumu- 
lated wisdom of years was for him at the disposal of an 
intellect undimmed and of a vigorous physique. He 
could not stop so long as there were evils to be discovered 
and wrongs to be righted or thoughts to l)e spoken. The 
inertia of the cannon ball keeps it rolling after it has slain 
the foe, sometimes to the harm of other foes in its way. 
Phillips could always find them. To a friend he said, 
"Now that the field is won, do you sit by the camp-fire, 
but I will put out into the underbrush." 

First, he found intemperance, and without going far. 
It was not a new evil nor the first time he had met and 
attacked it. Prohibition he regarded as the best remedy for 
general drinking, and he pleaded frequently for the enactment 
and enforcement of laws to stop the sale of liquor at every 
tenth door in Boston and in the taverns of every village. 
Yet he was broad enough to state the other side; that the 
saloon was the workingman's club-room, and that his twelve 
hours of labour left him but twelve more for eating, sleeping, 
and such diversion as he might get, which was not likely 
to be intellectual. Beer with the boozy at nightfall was 
the height of his anticipation. Excessive labour was one 
of the causes of common drinking, and this, in turn, of the 
poverty which made continuous toil imperative. Prevention 
was connected with shorter hours, giving a margin for better 
things than dram-shops — opportunity to make a home 
attractive, to read, to see interesting and improving sights, 
to think about something higher than grog, and for the 
younger to obtain the elements of education in the evening 


schools. To obtain all this he urged the value of organiza- 
tion, notwithstanding the ability of capital to wait longer 
than labour. It could control the nation if it were in earnest 
and kept united. This was forty years ago and a newer 
doctrine than it is to-day; but progress beyond his panacea 
has been slow, and the best achievements have been in the 
direction of his recommendations. 

That he could view social and reformatory movements 
from the highest point was seen in a lecture on the topic 
of In Christianity No Substitutes and No Mustering Out, 
given in June, 1870, at the closing of a Sunday afternoon 

There are many grave issues which the community 
must grapple with in the coming years needing all the 
reserve forces of social science and religion. Once man 
was regarded as a wild beast to be restrained; later, to be 
developed by implanting a motive principle and giving him 
opportunities, lifting him from subjection to temptation; 
opening to woman fields of labour that shall remove the 
necessity of vice, and bringing into society the reserve 
power of womanhood. Social science is wise selfishness. 
It does n't teach religion. I want to add to it a higher 
lesson. In the presence of the New Testament every 
human being is sacred and infinitely precious. Ten men 
are not to be ground up in order that nine hundred and 
ninety may be happy. Children are to be put right at 
home, not in houses. Young men, not in one Christian 
Association Building, but in as many and as costly as the 
devil's palaces on every corner. Newspapers to be as 
good as one which Wall Street consults, without its immoral 
tone. Give your millions and your presence in the lobby, 
in the suffering street, and supplement law with your sym- 
pathy and religion, and wherever the devil is go to fight 
him, without asking him to come up on level ground. Under- 


neath you is surging the immense power of human vice; 
how rotten civiHzation is! Then fight the devil with his 
own weapons; fight him with greater inducements, grapple 
with the same element of human nature. In order to do 
this I want all Boston, in the court, in the prison, in the 
grog-shop, every man and woman, not substitutes bought 
by money. Give me that, and I will show you a city re- 
deemed from vice. 

These lines are only as the occasional words that might 
be heard through a door ajq,r, needing all the rest to show 
their full import; but they indicate the thoroughness of his 
reformatory spirit and the absolute surrender which he 
demanded for effectual saving of society. It was no 10 per 
cent, method. Moreover, he practised what he preached, 
whether in benefactions or in rescue from evil ways. 

An immediate result of his agitation of social questions 
was his nomination for Governor by the Prohibition Con- 
vention on September 4, 1870, and four days later by the 
Labour party. It was an appreciation of his services in 
behalf of the two causes he had championed; but the hope 
of success was so forlorn that he cannot be said to have 
at last indulged in politics after a lifetime of abstinence. It 
only gave him an opportunity to publish his sentiments 
in a political creed whose first sentences were: "We affirm, 
as a fundamental principle, that labour, the creator of 
wealth, is entitled to all it creates. Affirming this, we avow 
ourselves willing to accept the final results of a principle 
so radical, such as the overthrow of the whole profit-making 
system, the extinction of monopolies, the abolition of privi- 
leged classes, universal education or fraternity, and the 
final obliteration of the poverty of the masses. Resolved, 
therefore. That we declare war with the wage system and 


the present system of finance, with lavish grants of pubHc 
land to speculating companies. . . . We demand a 
ten-hour day for factory-work, and eight hours hereafter; 
that women receive the same wages as men when employed 
at the public expense to do the same kind of work." 

In a speech supporting these demands and in his letter 
of acceptance he placed the value of the movement chiefly 
in its attempt to protect human rights, to insure peace, 
and as a guarantee against the destruction of capital; since 
labour and capital are partners, not enemies, and their 
interests are identical, in order to bring about a fair decision 
of the common profits. The best minds should give 
themselves to the work of changing the vast inequalities 
in the social system. And to the Prohibitionists he wrote: 
"The law cannot make men temperate, but it can shut 
up dram-shops which feed intemperance, double our taxes, 
treble the peril to property and life. The use of liquors 
rests with each man's discretion. But the trade in them 
comes within the control of law. Whatever lifts the masses 
to better education and more self-control and secures 
them their full rights, helps the temperance cause. Thor- 
oughly as I dislike to have my name used in a political 
canvass I have not the right to refuse it if it will strengthen 
your party." 

As the candidate of two parties Phillips received over 
twenty thousand votes, enough to show that temperance 
and labour reform were issues that had begun to be of 
some interest in the Commonwealth, which was his reward 
for consenting to a predestined and expected defeat. Doubt- 
less among these voters there were many who wished to 
conipliment him for services to another cause. Others 


did not let the opportunity pass to malign one who had 
exposed himself to attack by entering the political arena. 
Worse than the onsets of those who denied his fitness to be 
a political leader was the provocation given him to strike 
back. The violence with which he did this confirmed the 
wisdom of his hitherto unbroken resolutions to keep out 
of politics. He did not need their rough methods to call 
out his own sharper words, which were sometimes pointed 
with bitterness and feathered with unwarranted fancies. 
The lists which he had entered were unworthy of his steel, 
and ward-meeting tactics did not become the hero of a 
thirty years' war. 

Nor in the opinion of his friends did Phillips gain anything 
by urging the claims of General Butler in 1871 as a guber- 
natorial candidate who had allied himself with temperance 
and labour reform, and who at least represented an idea, 
but also was a disturbing element in the Republican party. 
This, however, was his recommendation to the agitator of 
labour interests and the "great question of money against 
legislation." It is noticeable that Phillips already foresaw 
dangers that would threaten the social fabric in the next 
generation, as he predicted in words like these: 

Republican institutions will go down before moneyed 
corporations. Rich men die; but banks are immortal, 
and railroad corporations never have any diseases. In the 
long run with Legislatures they are sure to win. This is 
the battle which General Butler represents, the battle of 
Labour. He has been charged with about every sin that can 
be imagined, except of not doing what he said he would do. 

On this account Phillips gave his support to the candi- 
date who was pledged to work for his favourite reforms. 


although he was again deserted for a time by friends and 
comrades. But this was an old story, and he kept on his 
way unswervingly without them until they chose to come 

He appeared to better advantage in a newspaper con- 
troversy over Mayor Lyman's attitude toward the Garrison 
mob of 1835, having been an eye-witness of the occurrence. 
The dispute served as a landmark to show how far the 
city had advanced in one generation, recalling the year 
when it was neither respectable nor safe in Boston to speak 
against Southern slavery. Thirty-five years later a coloured 
Senator, occupying Jefferson Davis's seat, was the guest 
of the Governor of Massachusetts and of the Speaker of the 
House of Representatives, and was received with distin- 
guished consideration by the Senate and the Judges of the 
United States Court. Phillips being called for, after an 
address by Senator Revels, reminded the large audience 
of an attorney-general who, thirty-three years before, 
spoke of emancipation as a letting loose of hyenas, and 
added, " Gentlemen of Boston, I introduce you to a hyena." 
The applause that followed was another token that the 
city had moved on from the day when this attorney-general's 
remarks in Faneuil Hall gallery incited Phillips to make 1 
the Lovejoy speech which made him famous in a day. 

Not discouraged by Butler's rejection by two-thirds of i 
the Republican Convention, Phillips gathered up the 
substance of his campaign speeches into an elaborate 
address on the Labour Question which he delivered in 
Boston and New York before the close of the year 1871, 
and published it later under the above title. He saw the 
same drift of wealth into the hands of a few here as in 


England; and that tlie survival of republican institutions 
depends upon a successful resistance of this tendency by 
the masses roused to grapple with this danger through 
political action. His remedy was graded taxation, doubled 
riches to be taxed fourfold, and corporations made co- 
operative for associated labour and capital. "One-third 
of Christendom never had food enough to make them 
what they should be; they spend the day merely in getting 
bread enough to live, with a stunted mind and no aspira- 
tions beyond supper, grog, and sleep. The system that 
makes five thousand dependent upon one is faulty in its 
foundations. Coal is double its value because of corpora- 
tions. Labour is too poor to own a journal, but its votes 
can command the press. Organization and education of 
the masses will win in the future." 

Phillips lent his voice and pen to the Republican party 
in the campaign of 1872. Neither its politics nor its candi- 
date suited him in all particulars, but Grant had done 
better in his first term than the abolitionists feared, and the 
great issues were now embodied in party measures. Perhaps 
the President's critic of 1868 was ready to atone for his 
strictures of that year; at any rate, his opinion of Horace 
Greeley, the opposition candidate, was as unfavourable as 
it was freely pronounced. Sumner had urged coloured 
men to vote for Greeley; and while Phillips sympathized 
with Sumner's injured feelings, he would not restore " the 
scandal and wrangle of Andy Johnson's years, with seces- 
sion encamped in Washington." His acquaintance with 
Greeley in the old anti-slavery contest had not prepossessed 
him with the Democratic candidate's courage and political 
honesty; and he believed that principles were now being 


traded for the Presidency, and that the Negro was being 
decoyed into danger to be left doubly defenceless. This 
and more, in a long letter, was his answer to the coloured 
people who had asked his counsel in a year when their two 
best friends differed in a way they could not understand. 
He made his own position unmistakably clear, and also 
the risk they ran in voting for the great editor of the Tribune, 
who was snowed under in November, 1872. 

James Anthony Froude volunteered, in 1873, to cross the 
Atlantic and explain to Americans in a series of lectures 
the ill success of England in dealing with Ireland. The 
reason which he mainly urged was the dogged incapacity 
of the Irish; that God left them unfinished, and that no wit 
of man can make citizens out of them; that the Celtic race 
lacks the elements that go to make up self-government, 
statesmanship, and a law-abiding community willing to 
associate with the great movements of the British people, 
who have furnished a government for the poverty-stricken, 
demoralized millions of Ireland for the last three hundred 

If the eminent historian and pamphleteer had not heard 
that an able and eloquent defender of Ireland lived in the 
city where his explanation began, his unfortunate ignorance 
was presently revealed to him. Possibly he had assumed 
that all knowledge of the Irish question that was to be 
credited belonged to a certain Parliamentary party, and 
that American opinion was the outgrowth of immigration 
and needing correction by himself. Phillips dispelled 
that illusion without delay. Taking the platform as the 
defender of Ireland once more, he drew some Inferences 
from Froude, as he entitled his address, which were ex- 


tremely disastrous to the purpose of that expounder and 
his statements. Thanking him for Hfting the Irish question 
into pubHc notice, he was not surprised that any EngHshman 
should clutch an opportunity of wiping away the eclipse on 
the good fame of his country, and of explaining its lack of 
justice and statesmanship toward the sister island. 

If Mr. Froude could convince the world that Endand 
had accepted the obligation which had been forced upon 
her, it would have gone half-way to wipe out the blots on 
his country's fame. No wonder that he did not make the 
attempt. Ireland has made itself the pivot on which the 
destiny of England turns. The would-be intermeddler 
in the affairs of all Europe did not dare draw her sword 
in the Franco-Prussian war for fear of Ireland behind her 
back. She knows that she would be checkmated if a 
foreign power should land men and arms on the opposite 
coast. The wickedness of the Tudors and Stuarts is pun- 
ished by the weakness of Victoria. In the essential state- 
ment of the case Ireland has conquered England. And 
Mr. Froude comes here to explain the situation on the 
ground of Irish incapacity — a bad choice of a jury, for 
since July 4, 1776, our political faith has been that all men 
are capable of self-government. 

The distinguished apologist for English government in 
Ireland had not counted on an antagonist of Puritan 
descent, and, surprised and discomfited, soon abandoned 
his enterprise of enlightening America. 

Phillips appeared with some of his fellow-reformers at 
a meeting of the New England Woman's Suffrage iVssocia- 
tion in Faneuil Hall in December, and closed his year's 
work in a speech appropriate to the occasion. 

Temperance and the labour question were frequent 
themes with him in the lectures which he delivered in the 


early part of 1874, showing that the grave issues now before 
the nation were clearly foreseen by this far-sighted observer 
of events and tendencies. A temperance lecture of his 
brought together the largest audience in Tremont Temple 
that he had seen there since the outbreak of the war. He 
hoped it foretold the rebellion of New England against the 
tyranny of the grog-shop. More likely it was the tribute 
of Boston to his eloquence on any subject in which he was 
deeply interested. A letter to George J. Holyoake indi- 
cates the start which incorporated wealth had fully a genera- 
tion ago: 

Two or three united railways {one president) will subject 
a state to their will. It is cheaper and surer to buy legis- 
latures than voters. This is the peril of universal suffrage; 
rum rules our great cities. One hardly sees whence the 
cure is to come. I believe, I don't see. I never expected 
to see any success of our anti-slavery struggle. The 
gods made men mad and hastened them on their way 
to destruction. I shall not live long enough to see any 
marked result of our labour movement. I trust there will 
never be a class-party here, labour against capital; 
for three-fourths of our population are to some extent 
capitalists. Limitation of hours is almost the only special 

Southern ferment recalled Phillips's attention to the 
Negroes whose position was full of doubt and danger along 
the Gulf. The Governor of Louisiana had been elected 
by them and stood by them before an opposition Legis- 
lature, but finally had to call upon the President to 
help him keep the peace in New Orleans. Sheridan was 
sent down and order was restored. Whereupon Southern 
sympathizers in Massachusetts, for the tribe was not 


extinct in 1875, called a meeting on January 15th, 
in Faneuil Hall, to denounce Grant and Sheridan. 
Phillips in the gallery listened to one speech after another, 
interspersed with calls for himself, which at the close grew 
so vociferous that he rose in his place, to be summoned to 
the platform, where he vindicated the administration and 
the commander in a speech that was applauded by Repub- 
licans and hissed by Democrats, after the former fashion. 
But the orator turned the tables on the promoters of the 
meeting, and an amendment to the denunciatory resolutions 
was passed, commending the course of Grant and Sheridan. 
He was certainly doing effective service for the cause at 
sixty-four, the military age of retirement. Also for the 
Government when he took up the currency question, which 
at this time was becoming a serious one when a gold dollar 
would buy two or three greenbacks, and when financial 
disturbance prevailed. 

Without pretending to be a political economist, he urged 
the plan for relief which seemed to him most promising 
before the American Social Science Association meeting 
in Boston March 3, 1875. It was, in short, to make the 
nation's currency good as gold, and its bonds a good invest- 
ment for capital, with interest at low rate for borrowers, 
who would thus develop the resources of the country. 
These principles of finance he set forth in a lecture 
with this title here and there for some time, not without the 
controversy which attends all economic theories, not all of 
which, however, are enforced with the vigour and plausible 
logic of his sincere argument. Even sincerity itself, he 
admits, may be at fault when tried by the wisdom of 
experience; as in the instance of his early belief in free trade 


contrasted with his later behef : '* Any boy can see an abstract 
principle. Only threescore years and ten can discern 
when to make an exception to it. This explains the influx 
of college boys into politics with marvellous and delightful 
ignorance of affairs." 

The world-wide celebration of the hundredth anniver- 
sary of Daniel O'Connell's birthday on August 6, 1875, 
afforded one agitator an opportunity to eulogize another, 
and one orator to characterize another. It was not the 
first time that Phillips had extolled his compeer when 
speaking upon kindred themes, but this occasion and audi- 
ence permitted undivided attention to a favourite character. 
As an eloquent appreciation it is unsurpassed, and stands 
as one of the highest achievements of his oratory. His 
sympathies were with the Irish reformer and his work; 
his admiration sincere for his methods, and for the power 
of his masterly eloquence. The man and his cause, his 
purpose and abilities, appealed to one of similar aims and 
powers, who of all men found it easy to render such a tribute 
as one man seldom gives another. Faithful, generous, and 
without reserve, it stands, all in all, as one of the best ex- 
amples in the language of true and honourable eulogy. 
For the eulogist himself it may be regarded as the acme 
of a climax, reached just as he had passed his grand climac- 
teric year.* 

Yet he found at this summit no signal to slacken his 
hand. If the causes he championed lacked the stimulus 
of anti-slavery discussion, their number and variety com- 
pensated in part and must have afforded a certain relief. 
Temperance, Labour, and Woman were themes on demand 

^Printed in the second series of his speeches, p. 384. 


for his lyceum audiences, and sometimes united as a compos- 
ite subject of a single discourse, which was deHvered when 
called for. The Indian problem also interested him as 
that of another race wronged by American greed, with a 
sadder destiny awaiting it than that of the Negro. 

Under military restraint, provoked to useless revenge, 
robbed of one reservation after another, decimated by 
whiskey and bullets, the remnants of aboriginal tribes were 
vanishing into the mists of sunset. In Canada a white 
man could ride unharmed from Quebec to Vancouver. 
Gall and Rain-in-the-Face trying to reach the Canada 
line were attacked in their wigwams, and when the worms 
turned, a Christian nation grew indignant over General 
Custer's death. He might have been better employed in 
restoring law and order farther south. But he was obeying 
orders of a Government whose barbarous policy had cost 
hundreds of millions, many lives, and more dishonour — 
all to be repaid in land seized, largely for immigrants and 

After the winter's lecturing tours Phillips hastened 
to the rescue of the Old South Church, a landmark of 
Colonial and Revolutionary times, whose destruction was 
threatened by the commercial value of its situation. The 
appeal he made on June 14, 1876, for its preservation was 
addressed to the historic spirit and civic pride of Boston, 
and as revised by himself remains among his published 
speeches as a choice example of what he could frame for 
an occasional address with an immediate purpose in view. 
It was a persuasive beginning in raising the requisite $400,000 
that saved the venerable building. As a contribution to 
the same purpose he opened a lecture course in May, 1877, 
with an address on Sir Harry Vane, repeating it with 


great success before many audiences. In full sympathy 
with his hero, he placed him in the constellation of worthies 
whom Massachusetts delights to honour, and his personal 
admiration produced a memorial discourse of whose 
charm only newspaper reports remain. 

In the opinion of many contemporaries — some of them 
his personal friends — Phillips would have left a more de- 
sirable record of his declining years if he had hung up his 
armour and had withdrawn from the field at the military 
age of retirement. The cause which he had championed 
had triumphed so far as legislation could give freedom to 
an enslaved race and the privileges of citizenship; but 
laws, like wealth, cannot endow men with capacities, abili- 
ties, and qualities essential to eminent social and civic 
attainment. In his later warfare he was opposed by hin- 
drances as obstinate as natural laws which no amount of 
benevolent intention can overcome. Of these he could not 
have been entirely unconscious, although it was a part of 
his heroism to banish the thought of them. It might have 
been better to admit the limitations of a good purpose and 
to contend only for what is possible. At the same time it 
must be said that the most of his contention was for rights 
which are conceded to every grade of immigrant as soon 
as he can be naturalized, even if he is not denatured. As 
a rule, the African whose ancestors were here three hundred 
or one hundred years ago will make as good a citizen as 
the exile, voluntary or otherwise, from the slums of Europe, 
Asia, or the Orient. 

There were other causes and reforms, however, in which 
Phillips was not so proficient a fighter and to whose success 
he did not so largely contribute. He always was ready to 



enter the lists in behalf of any worthy movement, but his 
ideas of it were sometimes too impracticable to be of the 
greatest value. Often they belonged to a future too far 
removed, to the present day more than his own; views and 
measures which time has vindicated, but not the best 
for his own day. And yet something ought to be accorded 
the prophet who discerns and advocates ideals that lift 
men's eyes to the hills while they are plodding along the 
lowland road which leads to the delectal)le heights. This 
idealist was sometimes impatient that the laggards did not 
mount up with wings as eagles. 

Worse than this, the ideal which he proposed was not 
always absolute, and lacked the sanction of successful 
experiment. The element of friction is frequently left 
uncounted in mechanism that looks perfect on paper, and 
many airships have fallen by the weight of their driving 

The reforms advocated by Phillips were all good, but the 
methods he proposed were not in every instance as com- 
mendable as the causes; still, they usually had features that 
saved them from utter repudiation and uselessness. In 
conference with other men he might have furnished valuable 
suggestions; but as a lone dictator of policies from an irre- 
sponsible platform his opinion on debatable matters of 
currency and finance, labour and capital, for example, was 
ideal rather than practical. What is to be most admired, if 
it cannot be commended, is the continuance of the brave 
spirit which sent him abroad in quest of adventure. That 
which had kept him in the field engaged in single-handed 
conflict for forty years did not die when Giant Despair 
was slain. Other men turned to the pursuits of peace; 


he could not. There might be left for them no foes more 
dire than windmills and fulling mills, than currency and 
tariff, consumer and manufacturer; but in this veteran knight 
was an undying flame which made him charge upon shadows 
in his path, cast by ogres of more or less reality. But the 
warrior zeal was genuine and the sense of duty unfailing. 



rriHE unflinching justice and courage with which PhilHps 
■*• could meet an occasion comphcated by the differ- 
ences between his friends was illustrated by his eulogy of 
Sumner, and, incidentally, of Motley, after the death of 
the latter in 1877, both of whom he considered had been 
treated unfairly by Grant, for whom in turn he had great 
respect. But on this occasion he could arraign the Presi- 
dent and Secretary Fish for stooping to a meanness, quoting 
Sumner's own plain words to the Secretary of State. "Sir, 
you are a tool of the President for base purposes; and this 
removal [of Motley from the British mission] is out of 
spite"; adding, "And it is true. The testimony is on the 
files of the diplomatic service itself." 

In the fall of this year Phillips was again approached 
with a proposal regarding a nomination for the Governor's 
office, which he declined to consider, as he did a nomination 
to Congress the next year. His friends wished to show 
him how widely his labours and character were appreciated ; 
but he decided to continue his service to good causes in the 
way that a lifetime of practice had made familiar. The 
public platform, trammeled by no party direction or policy, 



where speech was restrained by nothing more powerful 
than hisses and missiles, was to him more inviting than 
legislative halls and government offices where an agent of 
a party must keep within regimental lines. 

Instead, he still preferred to be an independent scout, 
discovering where a foe to humanity was lurking, and to be 
the first to warn, to attack, and to summon the laggard host/ 
Just at this time his sleepless vigilance encountered sundry 
attempts to put persons undesirable to their relatives in 
insane asylums ; and as he himself was once in similar danger 
from his family in early abohtion days, he checked the present 
movement by calling a public meeting and making a speech, 
which resulted in memorializing the Legislature to pass 
laws for the better protection of persons charged with the 
malady about which there was no recourse to the customary 
process of law, and to secure for inmates of retreats the 
right of frequent and fair examinations and timely release. 

The death of his co-worker. Garrison, in New York 
City, May 24, 1879, was the occasion of another eulogy, 
such as he might be expected to pronounce on the life, 
labours, and character of the elder partner in long years of 
service together in a common cause. "The hour is for 
the utterance of a lesson, to contemplate an example, a rich 
inheritance, a noble life worthily ended, and to emphasize 
what it teaches. The remarkable elements in his career 
were his consecration to a great idea; the earnestness and 
vigour of his carrying it out ; the sagacity of his discernment 
of hidden forces; the loftiness of his motives; his grasp on 

^That congressional life had its attractions for him, and was one of the prospects which he 
surrendered for an independent career, I am assured by one of his friends, who writes: "That 
which really attracted him was public life and not the bar, and nothing attracted him more. 
His dream would have been a life in the United States Senate, as he himself told me." 


American character; his courage in facing obstacles; his 
few mistakes; his happy hfe; his unflagging hope and 
serene faith; a leader, brave, tireless, unselfish; 'the blessing 
of him that was ready to perish' is his eternal great re- 
ward." The cause in which they had laboured tocrether 

t.' o 

was still demanding the watchfulness and advocacy of the 
survivor. Oppressed by white domination, thousands of 
the subject race were fleeing the Southern states until their 
former masters, fearing a scarcity of labourers, attempted 
to turn back the exodus from their own tyranny. To 
help the fugitives, a meeting was held in June to protest 
against interference with freemen's right to emigrate, and 
to raise funds to help them. PhiUips was foremost in the 
movement and spoke with his old-time interest and power. 
The Administration heard the protest and took some action ; 
but it was not possible to head off the stampede or stop it 
so long as the white over-lords could make conditions 
uncomfortable for the blacks. 

When the Radical Club of ultra-liberal Unitarians drew 
the radical reformer into their meetings at the house of his 
life-long friend, Rev. John T. Sargent, and into theological 
discussion, they found that his reformatory spirit did not 
extend to the faith of his fathers. His religious belief was 
consistent with all his efforts at bettering human society, 
and did not need to be improved to match amendments of 
any kind in the social fabric. Therefore, whether the 
traditional conception of the Christian religion, its Founder, 
or Edwards, its greatest New England exponent, were 
attacked, they all found a defender in the agitator and 
political reformer, the man who attacked everything else. 
He drew the limiting; line of destructive criticism and recon- 


structive at the portal of orthodoxy, while he often lamented 
that its members and ministers did not see how compre- 
hensive its principles of benevolence and charity were, 
and how all-persuasive its benign and reformatory activi- 
ties ought to be. It was his open criticism of such short- 
comings that brought upon him the charge of disloyalty to 
religion, whereas he was its reproving prophet for righteous- 
ness' sake. 

An instance of this occurred in January, 1880, in a famous 
controversy with the liberal clergy of Boston* on the liquor 
question, after he had addressed a committee at the State 
House on the license system, in which he pleaded for closing 
rum shops and scored the city authorities and the police 
for complicity with the trade. When Dr. Bartol apolo- 
gized for some sorts of drinkers, he cited the example of 
Mr. Pierpont, who was driven from his pulpit for agitating 
the temperance question, and was ostracized by his profes- 
sional brethren. Dr. Crosby, in 1881, fared no better 
after his notable lecture against total abstinence. "His 
own city, with license laws, is yet so ruled and plundered 
by rum that timid statesmen advise giving up Republicanism, 
and borrowing a leaf from Bismarck to help us." The 
entire reply, given by request of certain clergy of Boston 
before a large audience, is to be found in the second volume 
of his speeches. 

A crisis in Irish affairs led him to speak on this topic 
at a Land League meeting in February, in which he 
made the startling statement that separation from England 
was the only solution of a problem which English and 
Irish statesmanship had been trying to solve for more than 
a century. He proposed to cut the knot that bound the 


two islands together, so great are the difficulties in the 
way of their union. He did not attempt to predict what 
would become of a state of only ten millions of people 
among the powers of Europe. Not long after, he was 
invited to advocate their cause in Ireland itself, but was 
obliged to refuse on account of declining health. 

In June, of his seventieth year, he delivered what may be 
considered his valedictory oration, on the hundredth anni- 
versary of the Phi Beta Kappa of Harvard College. His 
alma mater liad contemplated his radical career with cool 
reserve, but after Boston had begun to appreciate the 
nation's recognition of her citizen, Harvard ventured to 
permit him to speak for himself — not without risk, some 
must have thought who recalled Emerson's famous oration 
of 1837, and no one had become literary bondsman for 
Phillips on this occasion, as when he addressed the public 
schools of Boston. There was much curiosity and some 
apprehension as to how he would use the academic opportu- 
nity of his life, although he had spoken on similar occasions 
at Williams, Dartmouth, and Yale. Nevertheless, he was 
loyal to the traditions of elegant and scholarly address, 
although colloquial and seemingly extemporaneous; but he 
was also faithful to his own convictions of what the Scholar 
in a Republic should be and to his sense of what scholar- 
ship in American colleges actually is — "cowardly, timid, 
and selfish." A few sentences will explain the surprise 
that the whole caused. 

History is, for the most part, an idle amusement, the day- 
dream of pedants and triflers. Journals [diaries] are the 
magnets that get near the chronometer of history and 
make all its records worthless. Of what value are its 


minutiae ? Law has no atom of strength only so far as 
pubHc opinion endorses it. We Hve under a government 
of men and newspapers — not of law. The first attempt 
to storm dominant opinions will reveal this to you. Educa- 
tion is not book learning. New England learned more 
from sundry discussions and events than from a hundred 
colleges, more from Fremont's campaign and Harper's Ferry 
than from a thousand academic chairs. Timid scholarship 
shrinks from these agitations or denounces them. Distrust 
of the people pervades the book-educated class, which 
shrinks from that free speech which is God's school for 
educating men. Trust the people and you educate the race. 
Therefore all attempts against universal suffrage are bad. 
If the interests of the best are endangered let the worst be 
educated to see their mistake. College bred men should 
be agitators to tear a question open and riddle it with light 
and to educate the moral sense of the masses. Intemperance 
is making universal suffrage a failure and a curse in every 
city, and scholars have given it nothing but a sneer. So 
in the law's non-recognition of woman, and in the rule 
of Ireland through fear of it, scholarship stood afar off. No 
government is rightful unless resting on the consent of the 
people, and one which assumes to lead in asserting the 
rights of humanity. At last that disgraceful seal of slave 
complicity is broken. Let us inaugurate a new departure. 
We must be better than our fathers. Prohibit temptation 
if it rots great cities. Intrench labour against that wealth 
which wrecked the Grecian and Roman states. Sit not, 
like the figure on our silver coin, looking ever backward. 
New occasions teach new duties. 

Anyone who will read the entire oration in the second 
series of his speeches will see that only here and there a 
line has been taken to show the drift of his address, which 
was, in a way, a thought here and a sentence there from the 
discourses of a lifetime as fearless, uncompromising, and 


consistent on the Commencement stage as in Faneuil Hall 
or the lyceum platform of a country town. As usual, he 
presented an aggressive front and measured men by their 
approach to his advanced outpost. His friends said that 
he remembered only the lapses of scholarship and forgot 
Sumner and Lowell, C banning and Emerson, Parker and 
Palfrey, Adams and Quincy. It was his lifelong way to 
let good men's deeds stand as their eulogies, while he was 
Cato the censor for the shortcomings of his friends and 
the great accuser of all who opposed the largest liberty 
of speech or of life under the laws. His admirers — and 
they were many — felt that he himself was the living refu- 
tation of his charge against the cowardice of scholarship; 
but not many could say that they themselves had been 
so courageous or so valiant in a long strife as he had been. 
Later, they saw more clearly what he endured and how 
great his achievements were. To comments at the time 
he replied: "Well, I suppose they wanted me to bring 
myself .^^ When was he ever known to bring any other 
man's opinion or manner of speech? 

It w^as a custom of Greek orators to continue a little 
while after the climax of discourse and descend to a close 
approaching the level of their opening paragraphs. With- 
out intention Phillips's last years had a similar movement. 
He believed that they could be but few after the threescore 
and ten; and although he was strong in mind and body, 
and was in undiminished demand by the public, there was 
a note of grim endurance in his " working hard and battling 
with snow-storms and drifts as I used to ten years ago, 
and hoped I should n't now," — in the December after the 
June day at Harvard. Then, in the next spring, came the 


necessity of removing from the house he had occupied for 
more than forty years, to make room for widening Harrison 
Avenue; and although the old home was reproduced as far 
as possible at No. 37 Common Street, near by, it was not the 
same for the two who had been peculiarly at home at No. 26 
Essex Street. This breaking up was for Phillips the begin- 
ning of the end. "It is no matter," he remarked as he 
stood looking upon the vacant corner lot where his house 
had stood. *'I am almost through with it all." He kept 
on, however, lecturing here and there as far as Philadelphia 
in the winter of 1882-83 on Labour and Capital, but felt 
obliged toward the end of the latter year to decline attending 
the fiftieth anniversary of the American Anti- slavery 
Society in Philadelphia. In his reply to the invita- 
tion, he spoke of the completion and triumph of a 
movement which in its progress touched all the great 
questions of the age — and now that its first purpose 
was accomplished it seemed wasteful that the skill 
and experience got from such labour and agitation should 
be lost. Freedmen would need the protection of a 
vigilant public opinion for a generation. "Labour and 
finance claim our aid in the name of humanity and 
justice. Let it not be said that the old abolitionist stopped 
with the Negro and was never able to see that the same 
principles he had advocated applied to every claim of down- 
trodden humanity." This broad philanthropy, which he was 
always practising, ought to have been a constant rebuke to 
the charge of fanaticism and narrow sympathies. 

Five days before the close of the year 1883 Phillips 
spoke in the Old South Church at the unveiling of the 
statue of Harriet Martineau. It was his last public utter- 


ance. The same essential breadth characterized it that 
underlay all his discourse. 

In moral questions, I say, there are no nations. We 
should endorse this memorial because the service of Harriet 
Martineau transcends nationality, a woman who has the 
great honour of having always seen the truth one generation 
ahead. She saw here, in 1834, the grandeur of the great 
movement just opened, whose proportions and results 
will be seen in time to come. We want our children to see 
the statue of this woman who came to observe and remained 
to v/ork, and having put her hand to the plough persevered 
until she was allowed to live where the paean of the emanci- 
pated four millions went up to heaven, showing the attain- 
ment of her great desire. 

If his hearers had been told that this tribute was to be 
his last public utterance, they would have said that the 
spirit of it was as true of himself as of the reformer he was 
eulogizing. The last half of the final sentence might, 
with the change of person, be placed beneath his own 
statue; but to it could be added an expression of the philan- 
thropy which embraces every race and every man, and of 
the heroism that shrinks from no sacrifice and counts 
nothing as a reward except the triumph of right over wrong. 

During the month of January, 1884, he was kept at home 
by the serious illness of Mrs. Phillips. On the 26th he was 
suddenly seized with the form of heart trouble known as 
angina pectoris, whose first attack is premonitory of death. 
To a friend asking him about his faith, he spoke of Christ 
as the centre and solution of the history of humanity; of 
his more than human nature, and of his spirit as enabling 
him to do and suffer; and of the future life as sure as to- 
morrow. With returns of paroxysms and agony he lingered 


through the week, until on Saturday evening, February 2d, 
after a day of comparative rest, he fell into the sleep whose 
waking is in the next stage of life. 

The death of a man of national and international fame 
was an affliction to his friends and a calamity to the city, 
state, and nation, which all made no delay in recognizing. 
In hearts and homes, in halls and churches, in city councils 
and state Legislature, in the West, and even in the South, 
there were tributes of affection for a kindly heart, of ad- 
miration for surpassing ability, and of respect for a coura- 
geous life. Mention of him was made in pulpits on Sunday; 
the press recorded its estimates the next day. On Wednes- 
day the funeral service at the Mollis Street Church was 
followed by the gathering of a vast throng, and by a con- 
tinuous procession through Faneuil Hall where the body 
lay in state, thousands doing homage to a name which had 
been canonized by death. Thousands more followed the 
guard of honour to the grave in the old Granary Burying 
Ground, where in the family tomb was laid the form of him 
whose familiar places should know him no more, but 
whose works should follow him.* 

On the Saturday evening following the funeral a com- 
memorative meeting was held in Faneuil Hall by friends 
and admirers of the departed, at which tributes of affection 
and honour were pronounced by one and another. And 
on the 18th of April, under the auspices of the city govern- 
ment of Boston, memorial services were held in Tremont 
Temple, where George William Curtis delivered a eulogy 
that was worthy of the subject of it. No survivor of that 

'On the death of Mrs. Phillips a little more than two years later both were buried in Milton, 
where they had frequently passed the summer. 


group which had made the mid-century a famous period 
in the history of eloquence could have rendered a more 
sympathetic and faithful tribute to the life and character 
of Wendell Phillips. Both had laboured together in the 
same cause, often in the same way, and with a marked 
similarity in their experience with audiences, and to some 
degree in their manner of address. Boston could not 
have better honoured its illustrious orator and reformer, 
atoning for its tardiness in recognizing, or at least in ac- 
knowledging, the loftiness of his aim, the sincerity of his 
purpose, and his faith in an instructed public conscience- 
Ten years later the city placed a tablet on the outer 
wall of the building which stands on the site of the Phillips 
homestead on Essex Street, bearing the following inscrip- 












IN THE brief extracts from Phillips's speeches and the 
condensations that have been given the main purpose 
has been to show what his sentiments were upon the issues 
paramount. Incidentally, also, is often seen the intensity 
of his convictions and the fearless earnestness of his expres- 
sion. Moreover, where the quotation has been direct 
and continuous, even of a fragment, much can be learned 
of his sentence and paragraph construction, his vocabulary, 
his figures of speech and thought, his illustrating anecdotes 
and historical allusions, his mastery of irony and invective, 
with his perfect control of himself and his audience, two 
powers that are not always found together. Furthermore, 
the variety of citations made will be found to exemplify a 
wide range of rhetorical principles and oratorical precepts. 
But beyond these qualities that may be illustrated by such 
brief citations as the limits of this volume permit, there are 
characteristics which belong to the framework of entire 
discourses and to the class to which they must be assigned. 
It is in this last particular that the great orator's versatility, 
variety, and adaptation to the subject and the occasion 
are exhibited, and in which it is conspicuously evident that 
he was much more than the mere abolition lecturer of tradi- 
tion and men's memories. To illustrate his constructive 




ability adequately nothing less than entire speeches should 
be read and analyzed. The two volumes of these fortunately 
permit such study/ but even one example cannot be ex- 
amined in the space assigned to the substance of the speaker's 
oratory, as distinguished from its form, treated in another 
chapter. It will therefore be necessary to illustrate a few 
classes of his discourse by reference to eminent instances 
of each, and to note his management of a few important 
rhetorical divisions, which have grown out of a long experi- 
ence of speaking men with listeners. 

First in the order of time — and he would have said in 
other respects — Phillips was a lecturer, with instruction 
as his main purpose. Not in the academic sense of a 
reader of formal discourse on themes of greater or less 
profundity and interest — sometimes associated with dul- 
ness on the part of the reader and the hearer likewise. 
Instead, his topics were not difficult to understand, and he 
was never commonplace nor his hearers sleepy. The 
continuous call for one of his earliest popular lectures, that 
on The Lost Arts, throughout his lifetime, shows that he 
remained a lecturer upon occasion to the end. Delivered 
from hastily assembled notes at first, to meet sudden sum- 
mons, it met also a certain thirst for the curious until it 
had been repeated — according to the editor of the second 
volume of Addresses — over two thousand times. Mention 
of this lecture has been made already in Chapter VII, 
in connection with his entrance upon the platform. An- 
other popular lecture, on Street Life in Europe, was of 
great interest when foreign travel was less common than 
it now is. In the first period of his career Phillips often 

1" Speeches, Lectures and Addresses," two volumes, Boston, Lee and Shepard, 1902. 


spoke upon subjects taken from the domain of science, 
invention, and discovery; but as it was not his habit to 
read a manuscript, no reports of these early discourses 

Soon, however, PhiUips's lectures began to have a purpose 
beyond popular information in science, art, and travel. 
With reforms in his mind it was not always certain whether 
his utterances could be called lectures, addresses, or speeches. 
Strictly speaking, the instructive element prevails in a lecture, 
and with it is associated the thought of premeditation and 
preparation; and as Phillips himself should be the best 
authority it is fair to accept his classification in the volume 
which was prepared in his lifetime — the first. ^ In it the 
following are called lectures: Idols, Harper's Ferry, Lincoln's 
Election, Disunion, The War for the Union, Toussaint 
rOuverture. In the second volume, compiled after his 
decease, only one title — The Lost Arts — heads what is 
termed a lecture. Like this one, the others mentioned 
were delivered in courses of lectures or upon special invita- 
tion, sometimes in different places, and bear the marks of 
orderly and careful thought and as if with the local character 
of an audience in mind. Such was the Fraternity Lecture 
delivered in Boston, largely a review of the city's "Idol" — 
Webster — and of his eminent eulogists, as also was that 
on Harper's Ferry, with his own eulogy of John Brown 
and his arraignment of Virginia and its governor, closing 
with the lines he loved so well — "Right forever on the 
scaffold, wrong forever on the throne." Disunion and 

^To the publisher of this volume Phillips wrote: 

"Four or five of them ('Idols,' 'The Election,' 'Mobs and Education,' 'Disunion,' 
' Progress') were delivered in such circumstances as made it proper I should set down before- 
hand, substantially, what I had to say. The preservation of the rest you owe to phonography." 


The War for the Union are two remaining lectures, 
which ought to be read on the same day, dehvered as they 
were in the same memorable year of 1861, before and after 
the opening of the war, the one indicating what he meant 
by disunion and the other his position with regard to war 
as an arbiter of the sectional dispute. 

As an example, however, of that kind of lecture which 
he oftenest delivered after the early period of scientific 
information, the half biographical, half political one on 
Idols is a good illustration. The opening paragraph 
is as informal as the first sentences of a skilled after-dinner 
speaker who takes his cue from the toastmaster, as Phillips 
himself evidently did from the presiding oflficer, or from 
some preliminary speaker. 

Mr. President and Ladies and Gentlemen: I feel half 
inclined to borrow a little wit from an article in a late number 
of the Atlantic Monthly — "My Double, and How He Undid 
Me" — and say, "I agree entirely with the gentleman who 
has just taken his seat. So much has been said, and so 
well said, that there is no need of my occupying your atten- 
tion." But then I should lose the hearty satisfaction it gives 
me to say with what delight I stand upon this platform, 
and how sincerely I appreciate the honour you do me, 
Mr. Chairman, by allowing me to aid in opening this course 
of lectures. 

While the topic of exordium is being considered it should 
be said that Phillips was always a gentleman on the platform 
and off, and knew^ how to conciliate an audience from the 
start, as in this instance. But he did by no means always 
follow this cardinal precept of the rhetoricians. If he was 
reasonably sure of their agreement with him at the close 
of his discourse, he cared very little for their favour at its 


beginning. Indeed, their hostility was as inspiring to him 
as a refractory steed was to his friend Rarey, the horse- 
trainer. Sometimes, if his hearers lacked this inspiriting 
opposition, he provoked it immediately. In this lecture, 
after two gracious and appreciative paragraphs, he might 
have felt that acquiescence was not stimulating enough, 
for he began the third in this way: 

There are men who prate about "nationality," and the 
"empire," and "manifest destiny" — using brave words, 
when their minds rise no higher than some petty mass of 
white states making money out of cotton and corn. My 
idea of American nationality makes it the last, best growth 
of the thoughtful mind of the century, treading under foot 
sex and race, caste and condition, and collecting on the 
broad bosom of what deserves the name of an empire, 
under the shelter of noble, just, and equal laws all races, 
all customs, all religions, all languages, all literature, and 
all ideas. I remember, a year or two ago, they told me of 
a mob at Milwaukee that forced a man to bring out the 
body of his wife, born in Asia — which, according to the 
custom of her forefathers, he was about to burn — and 
compelled him to submit to American funeral rites, which 
his soul abhorred. The sheriff led the mob, and the press 
of the state vindicated the act. This is not my idea of 
American civilization. . . . They will show you at 
Rome the stately column of the Emperor Trajan. Carved 
on its outer surface is the triumphal march of the Emperor, 
when he came back to Rome, leading all nations, all tongues, 
all customs, all races, in the retinue of his conquest; and 
they traced it on the eternal marble, circling the pillar 
from base to capital. Just such is my idea of the empire, 
broad enough and brave enough to admit both sexes, all 
creeds, and all tongues in the triumphal procession of this 
great daughter of the West of the Atlantic. 


This single paragraph might stand as an epitome of the 
substance and form of the orator's discourse. His compre- 
hensive political and humanitarian creed is here; a hint of 
his wide information; and an example of his apt use of a 
noble figure in illustrating a lofty sentiment, combined with 
outspoken, if unwelcome, truth at first, which was received 
with "loud applause" as he closed a paragraph classic in 
its construction. But, as a rule, the first sentences which 
he uttered were such as to secure silence and a hearing, 
and accorded with the general sentiment on the introduc- 
tory topic, which did not always relate to the line of remark 
to follow. x\s in this lecture, when he made the Ivceum 
one of the four sources of education, and woman's influence 
upon society and literature was asserted, there was a pleased 
assent and the audience went with the speaker, and even 
applauded when he said that "New England, with tolera- 
tion written all over her statute-book, has a pope in every 
village; and the first thing that tests a boy's courage is to 
dare to differ from his father." When, however, he pres- 
ently remarked of Webster that he was the bankrupt chief 
of a broken and ruined party and added sundry other 
uncomplimentary statements, hisses began to be heard; 
which was always the sure sign that Phillips was getting 
into the body of his discourse. 

On this occasion — in Boston, 1859 — he was intending 
to speak to its citizens about one of its "idols." He had 
laid a foundation for his remarks by dealing broadly with 
good literature and government, but as he drifted from 
these into personal criticism of "the opposition," it is better 
to look for a more representative example of what is called 
"the argument," 


One can be found in his Boston and New York lecture 
on The War for the Union in which was answered the 
question as to his position after hostihties began. 

I will not speak of war in itself — I have no time ; I will 
not say, with Napoleon, that it is the practice of barbarians; 
I will not say that it is good. It is better than the past, 
but there is not an element of good in it. I mean, there is 
nothing in it which we might not have gotten better, fuller, 
and more perfectly in other ways. And yet it is better 
than the craven past, infinitely better than a peace which 
had pride for its father and subserviency for its mother. . . . 

Some men say they would view this war as white men. 
I condescend to no such narrowness. I view it as an Ameri- 
can citizen, proud to be the citizen of an empire that knows 
neither black nor white, neither Saxon nor Indian, but 
holds an equal sceptre over all. If I am to love my country, 
it must be lovable; if I am to honour it, it must be worthy 
of respect. What is the function God gives us — what 
the breadth of responsibility he lays upon us ? An empire, 
the home of every race, every creed, every tongue, to whose 
citizens is committed the grandest system of free govern- 
ment. Tocqueville tells us that all nations and all ages 
tend with inevitable certainty to this result; but he points 
out, as history does, this land as the normal school of the 
nations, set by God to try the experiment of popular educa- 
tion and popular government. 

The war power of Congress is not an unconstitutional 
power, but the moment it comes into play it rises beyond 
the limit of constitutional checks. I know it is a grave 
power, this trusting the Government with despotism. But 
what is the use of Government, except to help us in critical 
times ? All the checks and ingenuity of our institutions 
are arranged to secure for us men wise and able enough to 
be trusted with grave powers — bold enough to use them 
when the times require. Lancets and knives are dangerous 
instruments. The use of surgeons is, that, when lancets 


are needed, somebody may know how to use them and save 
Hfe. One great merit of democratic institutions is that, 
resting as they must on educated masses, the Government 
may safely be trusted, in a great emergency, with despotic 
power, without fear of harm or of wrecking the state. No 
other form of government can venture such confidence 
without risk of national ruin. 

Now this Government, which abolishes my right of habeas 
corpus — which strikes down, , because it is necessary, 
every Saxon bulwark of liberty — which proclaims martial 
law, and holds every dollar and every man at the will of 
the Cabinet — do you turn round and tell me that this 
same Government has no rightful power to break the cob- 
web — it is but a cobweb — which binds the slave to his master 
— to stretch its hands across the Potomac, and root up the 
evil, which, for seventy years, has troubled its peace, and 
now culminates in rebellion ? I maintain, therefore, the 
power of the Government to inaugurate such a policy; and 
say, in order to save the Union, do justice to the black. 

I would claim of Congress — in the exact language of 
Adams — of the ''Government'' — a solemn act abolishing 
slavery throughout the Union, securing compensation to 
loyal slave-holders. As the Constitution forbids the states 
to make and allow nobles, I would now, by equal authority, 
forbid them to make slaves or allow slave-holders. 

This has been the usual course at such times. Nations, 
con^allsed and broken by too powerful elements or institu- 
tions have used the first moment of assured power — the 
first moment that they clearly saw and fully appreciated 
the evil — to cut up the dangerous tree by the roots. So 
France expelled the Jesuits, and the Middle Ages the Tem- 
plars. So England, in her great rebellion, abolished the 
nobility and the Established Church; and the French Revo- 
lution did the same, and, finally, gave to each child an 
equal share in his deceased father's lands. For the same 
purpose, England, in 1745, abolished clanship in Scotland, 


the root of the Stuart faction; and we, in '70, abohshed 
nobles and all tenure of estates savouring of privileged 

We grapple the Union together with hooks of steel — 
make it as lasting as the granite which underlies the con- 

I would have the Government announce to the world 
that we understand the evil which has troubled our peace 
for seventy years, thwarting the natural tendency of our 
institutions, sending ruin along our wharves and through 
our workshops every ten years, poisoning the national 
conscience. We know well its character. But Democracy, 
unlike other governments, is strong enough to let evils work 
out their own death — strong enough to face them when 
they reveal their proportions. It was in this sublime 
consciousness of strength, not of weakness, that our fathers 
submitted to the well-known evil of slavery, and tolerated 
it until the viper we thought we could safely tread on, at 
the touch of disappointment, starts up a fiend whose 
stature reaches the sky. But our cheeks do not blanch. 
Democracy accepts the struggle. After this forbearance 
of three generations, confident that she has yet power to 
execute her will, she sends her proclamation down to the 
Gulf — Freedom to every man beneath the Stars, and 
death to every institution that disturbs our peace or 
threatens the future of the Republic. 

In this lecture Phillips was instructing a popular assembly 
on the nature and powers of a republican government. It 
was a critical time, demanding unusual measures, which 
must be justified before the people, the source of all authority. 
In two cities, centres of opinion and influence, he argued 
the cause of the Government in its hour of extremity when 
the Union was imperilled. He did this in plain words, 
from admitted premises, supported by historical examples. 


His conclusion was that to which the Government came not 
long after, thus giving the highest sanction to his discourse. 
In its entirety it stands as a fair sample of his method in the 
principal occupation of many years — educating the people 
in that civic righteousness whicli exalts a nation. Informa- 
tion and instruction, education of the mind and of the 
conscience, was the "burden" of tliis prophet in his inde- 
pendence, personality, and wide-reaching influence. At 
the time this lecture was delivered he saw a growing political 
party taking up his work and Congress beginning to adopt 
his sentiments. 

When it is said that Phillips was primarily a lecturer, it 
should be understood that this statement does not rest upon 
the few discourses that are entitled Lectures. The term 
itself is inclusive and broad. So is the designation of another 
class called Addresses. Nor is it always easy to find the 
distinction between the lecture and the address, the same 
quality of instruction pervading examples of each. Indeed, 
one cannot read far in the two volumes of his speeches 
without concluding that the designation of his discourses 
does not always rest irpon peculiar characteristics. The 
occasion and the place of their delivery seem to have de- 
termined their classification. In a place of worship be- 
fore a congregation it is a discourse or an address; before 
a legislature, a plea or an argument; in a conven- 
tion or mass meeting, a speech. It will be a better 
principle of division to observe his work — under the 
general form of lecture or address — as expository, argu- 
mentative, eulogistic; or, once more, to regard the speaker 
as a citizen, an abolitionist, a lawyer, a reformer, a censor, 
a eulogist. 


An example of his expository ability has been given in 
the foregoing citations from his lecture on The War for the 
Union. In it is also revealed the high plane which the 
speaker occupied as the citizen of his country, above a party, 
beyond the bounds of his state and province, advocating 
no narrow measures of relief, abandoning the cherished 
holding of twenty years when the reason of it had passed 
away. As a citizen of his own city he proclaimed his love 
for it and for its good name when he made the eloquent 
appeal that helped to save the Old South Church from 
being sacrificed to Mammon. The basis of it was historical 
and patriotic, for the perpetuation of memories that make 
a people better, a city self-respecting. 

Naturally in our streets and neighbourhood came the 
earliest collision between England and the Colonies. Here 
Sam Adams, the ablest and ripest statesman God gave to 
the epoch, forecast those measures which welded thirteen 
colonies into one thunderbolt, and launched it at George III. 
Here Otis magnetized every boy into a desperate rebel. 
Here fit successors of Knox and Hugh Peters consecrated 
their pulpits to the defence of that doctrine which the State 
borrowed so directly from the Christian Church. The 
towers of North Church rallied the farmers to the Lexington 
and Concord fights; and these old walls echoed the people's 
shout, when Adams brought them word that Governor 
Hutchinson surrendered and withdrew the red-coats. 

On Bunker Hill let somebody point out to you the church- 
tower whose lantern told that Middlesex was to be invaded. 
Search till your eye rests on the tiny spire which trembled 
once when the mock Indian whoops bade England defiance. 
There is the elm where Washington first drew his sword. 
Here Winter Hill, whose cannon-ball struck Brattle Street 
Church. At your feet the sod is greener for the blood of 
Warren, which settled it forever that no more laws were 


to be made .for us in London. . . . We cannot afford 
to close any school which teaches such lessons. 

But these walls received a real consecration when Adams 
and Otis dedicated them to liberty. We do not come 
here because there went hence to heaven the prayers of 
Sewall and Prince and the early saints of the colony. We 
come to save walls that heard and stirred the eloquence 
of Quincy. These arches will speak to us, as long as they 
stand, of the sublime and sturdy religious enthusiasm of 
Adams; of Otis's passionate eloquence and single-hearted 
devotion; of Warren in his young genius and enthusiasm; 
of a plain, unaffected, but high-souled people who ventured 
all for a principle, and to transmit to us unimpaired, the 
free lips and self-government which they inherited. Above 
and around us unseen hands have written, "This is the 
cradle of Civil Liberty, child of earnest, religious faith." 
I will not say it is a nobler consecration; I will not say that 
it is a better use. I only say we come here to save what our 
fathers consecrated to the memories of the most successful 
struggle the race has ever made for the liberties of man. 
. Think twice before you touch these walls. We 
are only the world's trustees. The Old South no more 
belongs to us than Luther's, or Hampden's, or Brutus's 
name does to Germany, England, or Rome. Each and all 
are held in trust as torchlight guides and inspiration for 
any man struggling for justice, and ready to die for the 

It is a natural sequence to consider the professional work 
of a man after his efforts as a citizen. Although Phillips 
abandoned his law practice in the courts, he did not lose his 
knowledge of legal principles nor his skill in presenting 
them before legislators. His achievements on several 
occasions are proofs of the ability which he might have 
brought to the bar, and which he did bring to committees 
of the Massachusetts Legislature and to that body itself. 


They are also examples of his versatility, showing that he 
could address a small number of hard-headed men as 
effectively as a multitude, swayed by its varying impulses. 
The Argument for the Removal of Judge Loring from 
Office is an instance. It is in as marked contrast to his 
speeches before vast audiences as these were to the Com- 
mittee on Federal Relations before which it was delivered. 

The people of Massachusetts have always chosen to keep 
their judges, in some measure, dependent on the popular 
will. It is a Colonial trait, and the sovereign state has 
preserved it. Under the King, though he appointed 
judges, the people jealously preserved their hold on the 
bench, by keeping salaries year by year dependent on the 
vote of the popular branch of the Legislature. This control 
was often exercised. When Judge Oliver took pay of the 
King, they impeached him. [See Washburn's Judicial 
History of Massachusetts.] When the Constitution was 
framed the people chose to keep the same sovereignty in 
their own hands. Independence of judges, therefore, in 
Massachusetts, gentlemen, means, in the words of Governor 
Childs, "the fullest independence consistent with their 

The opinions I have read you [Hallam, the Report of 
Constitutional Convention Committee of 1829, Chief Justice 
Shaw, Prescott, Davis, and other recognized authorities] 
derive additional weight from the fact that all the speakers 
were aware of the grave nature of the power, and some 
painted in glowing colours how liable to abuse it was. 
Still, not one proposed to take it from you. . . . 

You may think, gentlemen, that I have occupied too 
much time in proving the unlimited extent of your power. 
But it seemed necessary, since the press which defends 
the remonstrant, and he also, though they do not in words 
deny your unlimited authority, do so in effect. They claim 
that you destroy the independence of the bench, and abuse 


your power, if you exercise it in any case but a clear viola- 
tion of the law. In words said to have been used by 
Rufus Choate in a recent case, "A judicial officer may 
be removed if found intellectually incapable, or if he has 
been left to commit some great enormity, so as to show 
himself morally deranged." Has, then, a proper case oc- 
curred for the exercise of this power .^ In other words, 
ought you now to exercise it? The petitioners think you 
ought for the following reasons. 

Enough has been given to indicate the judicial tone of 
Phillips's argument when the law itself was to be justified. 
He could be as exact in citing authorities, and the constitu- 
tional history of a state as a judge on the bench, and could 
state clearly and calmly his own conclusions. And in his 
final appeal for the removal of the judge he observes a 
restraint which the importance of the case and the dignity 
of the occasion imposed. 

In his plea before another committee of the Massachu- 
setts Legislature for the abolition of capital punishment 
Phillips displayed a similar wealth of learning and skill 
in presenting his arguments under the questions of the 
right, the obligation, and the necessity of taking human life. 
As there was no person, private or official, involved in this 
case it is probably the best example of calm and cogent 
reasoning in all his public speaking. Scriptural command, 
and civil precedent are carefully weighed; also the supposed 
restraint from crime by open or private execution. The 
most passionate appeal in it is the suggestion of coming 
down one more step in the series that has abolished the 
rack, tearing with wild horses and red-hot pincers, the 
faggot and stake. 


You cannot tolerate these things now. Society has been 
forced, by the instinct of humanity, against its logic, to 
put away these cruel penalties. Men have been crying 
out continually against this instinct of mercy which sought 
to make the dungeon less terrible; they feared to remove a 
cobweb from that dungeon's cruelty, lest the world should 
go to pieces. Yet the world swept it down, and is safer 
to-day than ever before. 

Now we ask you to abolish the gallows. It is only one 
step further in the same direction. Massachusetts has 
thrown it away for almost all offences; she only retains it 
for one or two. We ask you to take one more step in the 
same direction. Take it, because the civilized world is 
taking it in many quarters! Take it, because the circum- 
stances of the time prove you may take it safely! Take it, 
because it is well to try experiments for humanity, and this 
is a favourable community to try them in. These are the 
arguments, gentlemen of the committee, on which we ask 
you to abolish the punishment of death in this common- 

In his character as a lawyer and as an advocate of civil and 
social reforms might be included his pleas for woman, tem- 
perance, labour, and education; but the most of these topics 
did not require the careful statement, citation of authorities, 
nor the restraint of speech and reserve in personal criticism 
demanded by legal argument. While he did not chafe 
under the professional curb, he was not, of necessity, so 
interesting as on the untrammeled platform and before a 
free popular assembly. Still, there is a moderation in 
discussing these minor causes which often disappears 
when the insistent claims of abolition as the most needful 
of all reforms press upon him. 

Of his spirited eloquence at such times so many fragments 
have been given in preceding chapters that the tone of his 


discourse on the subject nearest his heart cannot be mistaken. 
In many respects one of these speeches resembles the ma- 
jority of them; but there were as many sides to the one 
question as facets to the Kohinoor. One which was always 
presenting itself to critics was the violence of abolition 
speakers as a hindrance to their cause. The answer to 
this charge is made in more than one address; but in the 
Philosophy of the Abolition Movement Phillips appears as 
the apologist of his coterie with special reference to stric- 
tures made in England and published in the London Leader. 
As a defender of denunciatory methods he is careful not 
to employ these in his justification of them — on the ground 
that a crying evil demands corresponding outcry against it. 
But in this apology for their use his language is temperate 
and free from the personality which he deemed necessary 
when men became synonymous with bad measures. 

What is the denunciation with which we are charged ? 
It is endeavouring, in our faltering human speech, to declare 
the enormity of the sin of making merchandise of man — 
of separating husband and wife — taking the infant from 
the mother, and selling the daughter to prostitution, — of 
a professedly Christian nation denying, by statute, the Bible 
to every sixth man and woman of its population, and making 
it illegal for "two or three" to meet together, except a white 
man be present! What is this harsh criticism of motives 
with which we are charged ? It is simply holding the 
intelligent and deliberate actor responsible for the character 
and consequences of his acts. Is there anything inherently 
wrong in such denunciation or such criticism ? This we 
may claim, — we have never judged a man but out of his 
own mouth. We have seldom, if ever, held him to account, 
except for acts of which he and his own friends were proud. 
All that we ask the world and thoughtful men to note are 


the principles and deeds on which the American pulpit 
and x4merican public men plume themselves. We always 
allow our opponents to paint their own pictures. Our 
humble duty is to stand by and assure the spectators that 
what they would take for a knave or a hypocrite is really, 
in American estimation, a doctor of divinity or secretary 
of state. 

After an enumeration of the evils incident to human 
bondage he adds: 

Prove to me now that harsh rebuke, indignant denuncia- 
tion, scathing sarcasm, and pitiless ridicule are wholly and 
always unjustifiable; else we dare not, in so desperate a case, 
throw away any weapon which ever broke up the crust of 
an ignorant prejudice, roused a slumbering conscience, 
shamed a proud sinner, or changed, in any way, the conduct 
of a human being. Our aim is to alter public opinion. To 
change public opinion we use the very tools by which it 
was formed. That is, all such as an honest man may touch. 

Have we not also addressed ourselves to that other duty 
of arguing our question thoroughly ? — of using due discre- 
tion and fair sagacity in endeavouring to promote our 
cause ? Yes, we have. No one step has ever been gained 
but by the most laborious research and the most exhausting 
argument. Of that research and that argument, of the 
whole of it, the old-fashioned, crazy Garrisonian anti- 
slavery movement has been the author. From this band 
of men has proceeded every important argument or idea 
which has been broached on the anti-slavery question 
from 1830 to the present time [1853]. . . . 

Much has been said about Phillips's sharpness of tongue. 
It is not easy to find more of it than in any earnest reformer's 
discourse when a giant wrong is assailed. In the above 
instance a concrete form of it was presented on the occasion 


of the hasty and perfunctory forms of justice to one whose 
death was a foregone conclusion; being to the speaker a 
pioneer and doomed martyr, whose captors and slayers 
inspired his friend's execration. Even here, however, he 
preserves a Ciceronian dignity of sentence and phrase, or 
even better, since he is arraigning a nation and its press 
rather than a single conspirator. And in the entire "lec- 
ture" there prevails a tone of moderation that dignifies and 
justifies its character. 

From Phillips on the defensive it is natural to turn to 
him in an aggressive mood — a more common one when 
engaged in controversy. It is best to note his invective 
in the thick of battle as the strongest expression of his 

We have been carrying on this insurrection of thought 
for thirty years. When we commenced the anti-slavery 
agitation, the papers talked about slavery, bondage, boldly, 
frankly, and bluntly. In a few years it sounded hard; it 
had a grating effect, as they spoke of the "patriarchal 
institution," then of the "domestic institution," and then 
of the peculiar institution and in a year or two of "economic 
subordination," and baptized it by statute and warranteeism. 
The Methodists advised their bishop, a slave-holder, to get 
rid of his "impediment," and Rufus Choate phrased it 
"a different type of industry." And so men have banished 
slavery into pet phrases and fancy flash- words. This is 
one evidence of progress. . 

You will remember, all of you, citizens of the United 
States, that there was not a Virginia gun fired at John 
Brown. Hundreds of well-armed Maryland and Virginia 
troops rushed to Harper's Ferry, and — went away ! You 
shot him! 

Sixteen marines, to whom you pay eight dollars a month 


— your own representatives ! When the disturbed state 
could not stand on her own legs for trembling, you went 
there and strengthened the feeble knees, and held up the 
palsied hands. Sixteen men, with the vulture of the Union 
above them, your representatives! . . . Soldiers and 
civilians — both alike — only a mob fancying itself a govern- 
ment! They do not begin to have the faintest conception 
of what a government is. Here is a man arraigned before 
a jury or about to be. The Chief Executive, bound to keep 
his mind impartial as to the guilt of any person arraigned, 
hastens down to Richmond, and proclaims to the assembled 
Commonwealth, "This man is a murderer, and ought to be 
hung." In the theory of English law, it was not possible 
to impanel an impartial jury in Virginia. If Jeffries could 
speak, he would thank God that at last his name might be 
taken down from the gibbet of History since the Virginia 
bench has made his worst act white, set against the black- 
ness of this modern infamy. And yet the New York press 
daily prints the accounts of the trial. Trial! In the 
names of Holt and Somers, of Hale and Erskine, of Parsons, 
Marshall, and Jay, I protest against the name. No decent 
form observed, and the essence of fair trial wholly wanting, 
our history and law alike protest against degrading the 
honoured name of Jury Trial by lending it to such an 
outrage as this. The Inquisition was heaven-robed inno- 
cence compared with the trial, or what the New York 
press called so, that has been going on in crazed and mad- 
dened Charlestown. 

A nearer approach to the Roman orator in personal in- 
vective is his upbraiding of Kossuth's inconsistency in 
pleading for his oppressed Hungary with never a word for 
the enslaved here. 

What, then, is the shadowy line by which, while he 
claims our sympathy and aid for Hungary, he separated 
the slave from his own ? Can he plead for liberty with such 


bated breath and whispered humbleness that to serve his 
purpose he can always rememVjer to forget the self-evident 
rights which God gave — to which the slave has as much 
right as the noblest Magyar of them all ? More than this, 
can he find it in his heart to strengthen by his silence, by 
his example, and his name the hands of the ruthless violator 
of those rights; cry "glorious" and "amen," while the black 
is robbed of his hard toil, of the Bible, of chastity, wife, 
husband, and child — only to persuade slave-holders to 
aid in securing for the Magyar peasant the right to vote, 
and for the "Magyar noble the right to legislate." The 
world thought his lips had been touched by a coal from the 
altar of the living God — and lo ! he has bargained away 
his very utterance and presents himself before us thus 
cheaply bought and gagged! 

Just as was Phillips's view and merited as was the censure 
of Kossuth's expedient blindness, it is remarkable that his 
censor did not condescend to more scathing terms on this 
single occasion when his temper is said to have come near 
getting the mastery of him. There were times when he 
could use epithets and comparisons that held sundry con- 
temporaries up to ridicule and scorn, but he was provoked 
rather than indignant, and amused his audience rather 
than roused their resentment. From all this and every 
form of his warfare, however, it is pleasant to turn to another 
aspect of his eloquence and note him as a eulogist. 

Brief "Tributes" to Theodore Parker, Francis Jackson, 
Abraham Lincoln, Helen Eliza Garrison, William Lloyd 
Garrison, and Harriet Martineau exhibit such a knowl- 
edge of character and appreciation of different qualities 
as belong to a loving and yet discriminating commemorator 
of noble lives; and if he had left nothing more in this direc- 
tion than these reminiscent remarks at memorial services 


and the like, he would have added another feature to his 
versatility. But there are three or four examples of ex- 
tended eulogy which establish his reputation as one of the 
greatest masters of commemorative oratory. 

The earliest of these memorial tributes is that pronounced 
at the funeral of John Brown before the family and a few 
neighbours gathered to pay respect to his memory at the 
farm house on the border of a wilderness in a December 
day of 1859. The simplicity and tenderness of his remarks 
accord with the lowly surroundings, with the loving rever- 
ence and sublime confidence that was paid the man who 
was counted a martyr by his friends. The speaker's fitting 
words reveal the felicity with which he could adapt himself 
to an unwonted occasion and to hearthstone sorrows. 

How feeble words seem here! How can I hope to utter 
what your hearts are full of ? I fear to disturb the harmony 
which his life breathes round this home. How our ad- 
miring, loving wonder has grown, day by day, as he has 
unfolded trait after trait of earnest, brave, tender. Christian 
life! . . . 

What lesson shall these lips teach us ? Before that still, 
calm brow let us take a new baptism. . . . Men said, 
"Would that he had died in arms!" God ordered better, 
and granted to him and the slave those noble prison hours 
— that single hour of death ; the echoes of his rifles have 
died away in the hills — a million hearts guard his words. 
God bless this roof — make it bless us ! God make us all 
worthier of him whose dust we lay among these hills he 
loved. He sleeps in the blessings of the crushed and poor, 
and men believe more firmly in virtue, now that such a 
man has lived. 

Standing here, let us thank God for a firmer faith and 
fuller hope. 


Daniel O'Connell was a man after Phillips's own heart. 
He had met him and corresponded with him and was in 
full sympathy with his efforts for Irish liberty, as the states- 
man was with the American agitator's purposes for the 
slave here. Therefore, when on August 0, 1875, the hun- 
dredth anniversary of O'Connell's birth was celebrated in 
Boston, Phillips was naturally the orator of the occasion. 

In a swift review of recent Irish history he places his hero 
among British statesmen as one who lifted the Island to 
a fixed and permanent place in English affairs, putting 
its independence beyond peril and making it the pivot of 
British politics. He outlines his work, delineates the sterling 
nobility of his character, and at the close passes to his 
oratorical power. 

Broadly considered, his eloquence has never been equalled 
in modern times; certainly not in English speech. Do 
you think that I am partial ? I will vouch John Randolph, 
of Roanoke, the Virginia slave-holder, who hated an Irish- 
man almost as much as he hated a Yankee, himself an 
orator of no mean level. Hearing O'Connell, he exclaimed, 
"This is the man, these are the lips, the most eloquent 
that speak English in my day." I think he was right. I 
remember the solemnity of Webster, the grace of Everett, 
the rhetoric of Choate; I know the eloquence that lay hid 
in the iron logic of Calhoun; I have melted beneath the 
magnetism of Sergeant S. Prentiss, of Mississippi, who 
wielded a power few men ever had. It has been my fortune 
to sit at the feet of the great speakers of the English tongue 
on the other side of the ocean. But I think all of them 
together never surpassed, and no one of them ever equalled 
O'Connell. Nature intended him for our Demosthenes. 
Never since the great Greek, has she sent forth anyone so 
lavishly gifted for his work as a tribune of the people. 
In the first place, he had a magnificent presence, impressive 


in bearing, massive like that of Jupiter. Webster himself 
hardly outdid him in the majesty of his proportions. 
There was something majestic in his presence before he 
spoke; and he added to it what Webster had not, what Clay 
might have lent — infinite grace, that magnetism that 
melts all hearts into one. I saw him at over sixty-six years 
of age, every attitude was beautiful, every gesture grace. 
He had a voice that covered the gamut. The majesty of 
his indignation, fitly uttered in tones of superhuman power, 
made him able to "indict" a nation, in spite of Burke's 
protest. I heard him once say, "I send my voice across 
the Atlantic, careering like a thunder-storm against the 
breeze, to tell the slave-holder of the Carolinas that God's 
thunder-bolts are hot, and to remind the bondman that 
the dawn of his redemption is already breaking." You 
seemed to hear the tones come echoing back to London 
from the Rocky Mountains. Then, with the slightest 
possible Irish brogue, he would tell a story, while pU Exeter 
Hall shook with laughter. The next moment, tears in his 
voice like a Scotch song, five thousand men wept. And 
all the while no effort. He seemed only breathing. 

We used to say of Webster, "This is a great effort"; of 
Everett, "It is a beautiful effort"; but you never used 
the word "effort" in speaking of O'Connell. And this 
wonderful power, it was not a thunderstorm: he flanked 
you with his wit, he surprised you out of yourself; you were 
conquered before you knew it. 

One cannot read this characterization of the great Irish 
agitator's eloquence without applying much of it to his 
American admirer, who was yet no imitator. 

"Toussaint I'Ouverture" was called by its author a 
sketch, and a short biography, and an historical argument in 
a lecture which was in frequent demand in the war years. 
Essentially it was a eulogy, as truly as was Everett's famous 
oration upon Washington. For the hour the black man was 


white through the magic of Phillips's citation of history and a 
comparison of his hero with the great ones of the earth. 
It was a marshalling of facts in a story that was eloquent 
in its simplicity, and interesting to most of his hearers 
through its novelty. The argument was comparative, to 
the great advantage of L'Ouverture when placed side by 
side with the honoured in history. 

I would call him Napoleon, but Napoleon made his way 
to empire over broken oaths and through a sea of blood. 
This man never broke his word. ... I would call him 
Cromwell, but Cromwell was only a soldier, and the state 
he founded went down with him into his grave. I would 
call him Washington, but the great Virginian held slaves. 
This man risked his empire rather than permit the slave 
trade in the humblest village of his dominions. 

You tliink me a fanatic to-night, for you read history, 
not witli your eyes, but with your prejudices. But fifty 
years hence, when Truth gets a hearing, the muse of History 
will put Phocion for the Greek, and Brutus for the Roman, 
Hampden for England, Fayette for France, choose 
Washington for the bright, consummate flower of our 
earlier civilization, and John Brown for our noonday; then 
dipping her pen in the sunlight, will write in the clear blue, 
above them all, the name of the soldier, the statesman, the 
martyr — Toussaint I'Ouverture. 

As this final paragraph may be taken as perhaps the best 
example of his perorations, so it may also represent the 
acme of his eulogistic compositions. Its effect upon 
audiences was overwhelming. 

If one looks for the climax of his achievements during 
the whole of his career, the Phi Beta Kappa oration at 
Harvard on the society's hundredth anniversary may be 
taken as occupying that position. In his seventieth year. 


in 1881, his alma mater had at last come to honour the 
chief orator of the nation with an invitation to address its 
principal literary society; not without misgivings as to 
what he might say. Williams, Dartmouth, Yale, and 
Brown had risked listening to his discourse during the 
'fifties, and the great controversy now being fifteen years 
past it was concluded to make the venture. 

It turned out to be an onslaught on the timid conser- 
vatism of academic habits, until roused by a catastrophe, 
and an appeal to trust, and therefore to educate, the entire 
people, and by means of agitation of great questions to 
inform minds and quicken consciences until the nation 
should rule itself wisely and righteously. But there were 
passages in this bold address that made the dry bones of 
mere book learning rattle and the ghosts of tradition squeak 
and gibber. Twenty years later the essential wisdom of 
this advanced thinker was admitted with better grace. 

The oration itself was not remarkable for its scholarly 
form nor for its periodic flow. Its words were not academic; 
its quotations were from the literature of protest. It was 
rather a shrill call to duty amidst the perils that beset a 
republic, that the scholar share with the citizen the burden 
of shaping a nation. It was the final legacy of a veteran 
instructor of the people at large as contrasted with the 
cloistered teaching of a university. He had his own message 
to his college, and he delivered it with the unsparing fidelity 
that marked his discourse throughout half a century. More 
than most of his utterances it should be read in its entirety, 
since it was one which was written before it was spoken, of 
which, however, there was no hint in the delivery. 

In this the dramatic element appeared once more. The 


old man eloquent and valiant afield so long, had returned 
to the arena of youthful contention in his collegiate years. 
Unlike his fellows, he had not been a frequent participator 
in class reunions and fraternity festivals. Alma mater 
herself had no benignant smile of welcome for him during 
five stormy decades, and no thought of crowning him with 
academic honours who had won the highest distinction 
in the art of arts, and had taught half a continent to do 
justly and love mercy. With hesitation and doubt, curiosity 
and fear, she at last permitted him, like Paul before Festus, 
to speak for himself. The venerable crusader had fought 
too many battles afar to play soldier at home, and he looked 
for the vulnerable spot in the scholastic body which made 
it indifferent and valueless in reforming eras, and pierced 
it with Apollo's shaft. There was the customary writhing 
and the usual protest; but also the perplexed wonder at 
the dissent and unbounded admiration for the grace and 
efficiency of his entrancing eloquence, and for his undaunted 
courage of convictions. As faithful to these before univer- 
sity dignitaries as before the commonalty, he stood for 
what was high and heroic to the end: a censor of wrong, 
an advocate of right; a defender of the oppressed, and a 
prophet of a better future. 

Such, in brief, was the substance of Phillips's oratory. 
Whether it be called a lecture, address, speech, oration 
or discourse, it was always adapted to the occasion, the sub- 
ject, and the audience with its varying moods. In this 
versatility of adaptation lay much of his power. People did 
not listen to an oratorical performance on some high theme, 
but to a personal argument or discourse of interest addressed 
to their understanding as directly as in the conversation 


of one man with another, in the manner of one with a group 
of Hsteners, and broadened and elevated as the group 
swells to a crowd. But the speaker himself did not change 
essentially, as the actor must. He produced his effects 
without the artifices which belong to the stage, and always 
with simplicity because with the utmost sincerity, yet with 
certain characteristics which may be noted as belonging 
to the form of his discourse as distinguished from its sub- 
stance. Some of these are of personal interest. 


IN THE foregoing account of the life and labours of 
Wendell Phillips sundry characteristics of the orator, 
the agitator, and the man have revealed themselves. It re- 
mains to gather these into the unity which belongs to a per- 
sonality and gives it distinction. 

He was known to most people chiefly as a public speaker. 
For one person who saw him in Boston there were thousands 
who had heard him for an hour on some platform. If alive 
now they would recall him as he appeared in the winter 
evenings of the old lyceum lecture years, when expectant 
audiences watched the dial for the moment when the pre- 
siding ofiicer should usher in the lecturer and introduce 
him to an impatient house. It was a thankless task to this 
prior functionary, and if overdone was trying to the assem- 
bly, eager to hear from the chief speaker. Meanwhile 
the lecturer had ample time to lay aside the well-known 
gray overcoat and felt hat, and to classify the throng before 
him with the accuracy with which a geologist makes note 
of a stony field. The speaker on a thousand platforms 
had learned to pick out boulders of the glacial period and 
rocks of the carboniferous age, and could distinguish sand- 
stone from granite at a glance. Moreover, he was quick 
to discern fossil formations and to discover if there were a 



living organism among them. x\ll this he readily saw and 
more, and pitched the keynote of his discourse accordingly. 

What the audience first noticed as he sat waiting was a 
head of classic mould, with clear-cut profile and assured 
mien, slightly severe in its serenity, a person not to be 
easily confused, suggesting defensive and aggressive quali- 
ties not to be trifled with. Steady blue eyes, a blond 
complexion of ruddy cast, and tawny hair betokened a 
sanguine temperament of good hope and great courage. 
The regulation introduction over, a tall, well-proportioned 
man, with broad shoulders and deep chest, stepped to the 
front of the platform with patrician grace and self-posses- 
sion, having no manuscript or notes in hand, and needing 
no support of desk or table. In a forehead broad and high, 
a commanding presence, and a far-carrying voice lay the 
resources of his art. The first impression was pleasing 
rather than overwhelming, that of an accomplished gentle- 
man, entirely at home on the stage, who had something 
of serious importance that he wished to say to his listeners. 
These he seemed to address as individuals, and as if there 
were a dozen of them instead of hundreds. Yet no one 
of a thousand but believed that he himself was one of the 
addressed. Largely, this impression came from the tones 
of voice with which the speaker began his remarks. 

It is easier to recall than to portray that voice. Tech- 
nically, it has been described as of no great range or volume, 
and thin in the higher register, but rich in the lower notes, 
a baritone whose distinction was in its quality or timbre 
and the absolute purity and vibratory resonance which sent 
it to the end of the largest halls. It has also been likened 
to the penetrating mellowness of the flute and violin rather 


than the blast of a bugle. Its chief value, however, aside 
from its reaching and finding power, lay in its flexibility and 
modulation to every shade of meaning, as in conversation. 
In the middle notes of ordinary speech he would give a new 
significance, distinction, and discrimination to a word or 
phrase without raising his voice, running the entire scale 
of emotion in colloquial tones, with neither scream nor 
bellow, whisper nor shout. If he knew his limitations, he 
also knew how to indemnify himself. To do this required 
the perfection of understanding and taste to suit the tone 
to the thought, which belongs only to the highest art or the 
profoundest feeling. AVith this man every note was true 
because natural, and natural because sincere and out of 
the depths of profound conviction. From first to last he was 
terribly in earnest, and the burden of his speech was on that 
lower level which men naturally use when they mean what 
they say. 

Furthermore, this naturalness of sincere speech in moderate 
tones was greatly helped in its audibility by a distinct but 
unaffected enunciation and a deliberateness of utterance 
which never lagged into slowness. Intensity in many 
great speakers of his time ran into a rapid and sometimes 
boisterous flow of words, with hardly perceptible separation 
between the drops of the stream; his words were as distinct 
as those of a printed page, and every vocal vowel and con- 
sonant as clear, securing the first requisite of speech as of 
composition — intelligibility. There was no wearying strain 
of the listener to catch every word, as there was also none 
to understand what he meant. Therefore he did not tire 
his hearers, but kept them in a restful mood so far as exertion 
on their part was concerned. Moreover, there was no 


appearance of bodily fatigue or mental effort on the speaker's 
part to induce a sympathetic feeling in the sensitive listener; 
as in the instance of certain eloquent but laborious preachers 
in New England and Old in the last generation, whom our 
ancestors would have called "painful." Rarely, and after 
much speaking, he used to say that his throat would not 
allow him to continue longer, and it is on record that at such 
times his voice occasionally broke; otherwise the listener 
might well have believed that public speaking was as nat- 
urally pleasant to him as singing to the public singer. 

His delivery was as natural as the tones of his voice. 
With graceful attitude, so poised as to turn easily to right 
and left, yet seldom changing position or walking the stage, 
he could readily adapt action to sentiments. His gestures 
were so in harmony with the thought and its moderate 
tones of expression that they seemed fewer than they were; 
and because his strong words were so forceful they did not 
need emphasizing by violent gesticulating, which often 
enfeebles more than it reenforces speech. The referential 
or antithetic movement of a hand, or the placing of one upon 
the palm of the other in asserting a proposition or establishing 
a conclusion, all far inside the windmill sweep of the primaeval 
American orator, were only such as are used in animated 
conversation — outside Romance peoples. But, whatever 
they might be, they were symbols of the sentiment uttered 
and, like the needle of the compass, significant of polar 
direction without reaching clear to the poles. Yet there was 
no hint of the awkward constraint which self-consciousness 
imposes on the unaccustomed speaker. It was reserved 
action, itself the pledge of unemployed power. In the 
hearer's certainty that there was such a store of unused 


force lay a large part of Phillips's subtle attraction. Would 
he exhibit all his strength in some supreme passage ? Or 
would he go on in his level discourse, moulding hearts and 
wills with an action of mind and voice, of thought and* 
speech, as quiet and sure as the polished engine whose 
work seems its play ? What storage of electric power un- 
consumed lay at the radiating point of the wireless com- 
munication which was flowing from him to his hearers ? 
And while they waited expectant the hour flew by, the 
speaker closed as quietly as he began, and the throng re- 
luctantly moved away, pleased but hungering still; delighted, 
but unable to tell why; convinced, but against their con- 
victions; persuaded, but contrary to their will. 

This contrariety of will and opinion, when the slavery 
question was his theme, often made the temper of his hearers 
far more unquiet than his own. Indeed, he was sometimes 
the only unmoved person in the house, while a part of the 
audience stormed with resentful rage, and the rest of it 
was wrathful against the disturbers of the assembly. Oc- 
casionally these pro-slavery and anti-slavery sentiments 
would surge together like the Gulf and Arctic currents by 
the Cape of the Pilgrims. In the early days forces of 
madness and hate drove hissing and foaming against him 
alone. Then he would stand unmoved as a sea-girt tower 
until the storm was over; or with a flash of scornful wit 
or a word of wisdom would calm the tempest as with a 
"Peace, be still." Few were the turbulent and malicious 
crowds that he could not tame into quietude enough to hear 
what he had to say, however they might receive it or act 
upon it afterward. Sometimes it would have been safer 
for him if he had not compelled them to listen. When the 


spell was broken forty men were needed more than once 
to protect him from the violence his speech had provoked, 
but which his magnetic presence had controlled so long 
as he was before the audience. This often became a mob 
in the street, as it would have been in the hall had he not 
subdued it. Such triumphs belong to few speakers in 
twenty-five centuries of recorded eloquence. Many men 
have won applause from concurrent hearers, and some 
from divided houses; as Webster, for instance, in his reply 
to Hayne; but only one American orator in our history 
has been able to master hostile assemblies year after year 
in one state after another until the tide of opposition ebbed. 
It is one thing to ride with a storm and upon it; another 
to stem and to quell it. Therefore the primacy must be 
accorded to this speaker, not only for the outer graces of 
oratory before a courteous assembly, but for supremacy 
over such antagonism as never was met by the advocate 
of any other cause for a long period. 

Next after the exterior qualities of presence, voice, and 
action, with the charm called magnetism, must be con- 
sidered certain elements which belong to the mental con- 
tingent in the compound product of oratory. The most 
obvious of these is the language which the speaker uses. 
The style of this, like his manner, was free from pretence; 
simple, sincere, and therefore intelligible. Often it was 
colloquial, bordering on the familiar and conversational; 
but always in accord with the precept he sometimes gave 
to young aspirants : '* Never use a word in conversation that 
you would not use in public speech." Consequently, his 
own diction was pure without being stilted, and free from 
any approach to slang, which is the special temptation of 


extemporaneous speakers when thouglits outrun words. 
So elevated was his taste that when he sometimes cHpped 
a final g, it seemed in him like the little negligences of dress 
or manner that often distinguish the self-assured from 
the careful gentleman. If he occasionally pronounced 
either and philosophy with a long i, it was not because he 
did not know the better usage, nor because some Englishman 
did so; and if he frequently used can't, was n't, should n't, 
and similar colloquial forms, it was because he was talking 
to that representative person, or a dozen of him in the audi- 
ence, whom the old Greeks called lis — a certain man. 
But to his common words, addressed to the common sense 
of the multitude before him, he could give an inflection, a 
movement, an emphasis, and a force that clothed them with 
a new significance. If there was one element he lacked 
it was the pathetic. Full of compassion as he was, and 
tender hearted, he did not greatly affect pathos or move 
an audience to tears. Perhaps his prevailing moods, de- 
fensive and aggressive, did not much favour pathos. 

His career had called for the opposite quality of invective. 
In this he was masterful. Irony, sarcasm, ridicule, were 
so many arrows from a full quiver, shot without rant or 
scream, in a voice quiet and steady, but finding their mark 
with unerring precision. And the man or measure or policy 
that was struck seemed to wither into immediate contempt. 
It is doubtful if any milder treatment would have served 
his purpose so well in those stormy years of hand-to-hand 
warfare against a giant wrong. The drawback to it was an 
undiscriminating stroke now and then which slashed some 
friend who had ventured out over the circle which the 
reformer in his intensity had drawn with a short radius 


around himself and his own companions. Outside this 
circle all were aliens, and they as much as any who 
within it were not far away but yet not close to the central 
standard. For them he had severe reserves of criticism. 
Still, however violent these were, he was seldom known 
to be thrown off his balance. When Kossuth came here 
to plead for his oppressed countrymen, but had no word 
of sympathy for Southern slaves, knowing that this would 
interfere with his success, Phillips's scorn for the Hungarian's 
restricted philanthropy transcended its customary restraints. 
Doubtless the national encouragement that the advocate 
of foreign freedom received here magnified the essential 
inconsistency of his plea, and Phillips, in upbraiding a 
partial vision of universal liberty, intended to score Kos- 
suth's supporters as well. They were so many, both North 
and South, that the aggregation ran away with the agitator's 
temper for once, and he overdid the onset, as most men do 
oftener than he upon equal provocation. It was in these 
scornful moods, however, that he was most brilliant, and 
was at his best when the audience treated him worst. No 
man of them could spring a surprise on him to which he 
did not send back a ready retort that made the interrupter 
wish he had held his tongue. The laugh he had unwisely 
sent rippling toward the speaker came back with a roar 
as of the sea which engulfed Pharaoh and the Egyptians. 
The rash wight was overwhelmed by the shouting of his 
fellows, who could not resist the sudden turn of wit that 
the accomplished orator had made. Those who had once 
felt its sting learned not to venture within its reach a second 

No enumeration of the great orator's qualities would be 


complete without mention of his versatiHty. This was 
apparent in the ease with which he could turn from one 
theme to another, sometimes in the same hour; but it was 
still more evident in the almost infinite variety which he 
gave to the chief topics of thirty years' discussion. To 
speak a hundred times in a year upon the same subject, 
and to have verbatim re])orts of these speeches printed, 
and keep the seeming freshness of new utterance was a 
feat which few of the orators of the lecture period accom- 
plished as they made the circuit of the states with two or 
three well-worn manuscripts, which, like casks of water on 
a long voyage, had a period when they nauseated the lec- 
turer at least. But this agitator could draw off-hand a 
dozen unlike draughts from the same source, albeit the basis 
was the same acid, cleansing and caustic, but so tempered 
to each occasion and taste that the Scriptural question 
concerning sweet water and bitter from the same fountain 
seemed to be answered affirmatively. He would go from 
city to city and by some sleight of hand produce from one 
repertory addresses on the single lesson of the hour, differ- 
ing as widely as the names of those cities differ, and adapted 
to the diverse moods of their people. Moreover, one might 
compare the reports of successive speeches and find that 
their similarity was chiefly in their common theme and 
general tone. Occasionally an illustrative anecdote, always 
a good one, told in an inimitable manner, would be repeated, 
and sometimes a favourite comparison used more than 
once; but the places were few in which the same sentence 
and paragraph occurred, while the tone of discourse always 
varied with degrees of longitude. The secret of this diversity 
lay in the speaker's quick apprehension of his audience 


and his knowledge of public sentiment in the region. Any 
one might guess the difference between Worcester and 
Philadelphia on abolition ; but a keener perception would be 
required to discriminate between the cities along the lines 
from Boston to Chicago and further westward. A traveller 
once heard on three successive evenings three differing 
speeches on the same subject between and including New 
York and Springfield which were adapted to the temper 
and temperament of as many audiences. Such perform- 
ance, so far as it can be explained, must be charged to a 
mind full of knowledge about the general theme, and which 
had brooded over it in its hundred phases, until anyone of 
them was replete with prolific interest. Like a dweller in 
the city of a hundred gates this man saw from any one of 
them roads radiating wide and far, leading into territory 
unknown and unsuspected by the home-staying and sordid. 
Therefore the reach of his vision and speech embraced 
every place and interest and policy that a great and central 
wrong might corrupt by malarial winds blowing to every 
point of the horizon. For him to turn from one aspect or 
prospect to another was as easy as to address the right or 
left, front or rear of an assembly; which, however, did not 
always recognize the essential unity of his subject in the 
diversity of his manifold exposition. 

There was another and rarer but most impressive feature 
which has sometimes been overlooked in traditional accounts 
of his prevailing colloquial address — that is, the beauty 
and sublime impressiveness of his closing paragraphs when 
the subject required it. Occasionally the same perfection 
of rhythmic speech marked the end of some division of an 
address. The example that will first occur to most readers 


is the close of the lecture on Toussaint I'Ouverture, since 
it is now one of the oftenest declaimed in schools. Those 
who were so fortunate as to hear him will never forget the 
great orator delivering in clear and quiet tones the lines 
beginning, "You think me a fanatic to-night, for you 
read history, not with your eyes, but your prejudices." 
And they will recall through the years the ascending steps 
up which he led his hero past the brave and the good of 
all time, and then wrote "in the clear blue above them all 
the name of the soldier, the statesman, and the martyr." 
It was a climax of biographic and historical argument to 
which not one in a hundred of his hearers expected to assent 
at the start, but at the close found themselves assisting at 
the apotheosis of a "St. Domingo chief, an unmixed Negro, 
with no drop of white blood in his veins," as the speaker 
defined him at the start, and he was apt to make the strongest 
statement of his proposition first, get hissed, and then prove 
its truth. At the close, L'Ouverture appeared to outshine 
all the stars in the bright constellation of renown. Espe- 
cially noteworthy also are the perorations of the addresses 
entitled "Under the Flag" and "War for the Union," 
"The State of the Country" and "Lincoln's Election," 
"Christianity a Battle," "The Education of the People," 
"The Scholar in a Republic," "Daniel O'Connell," and 
"William Lloyd Garrison." The last two, with other trib- 
utes, show that when he chose he could rival the "classic 
eulogies of brave old men and martyrs," which he used to 
say he had by heart. 

It is natural to ask how far education contributed to the 
sum total of his excellence as a public speaker. No amount 
of training would alone have made him eminent; nor would 


merely natural gifts if unimproved. But to his princely 
endowment of these he added more labour and pains than 
is commonly known. At an early day he had excellent 
opportunities to study audiences of every grade and size, 
from the groups in country schoolhouses and dozens in 
town houses to the city throngs in Faneuil Hall, and others 
in Boston, New York, and elsewhere. His immediate 
success in these gave him confidence; but there were things 
to be learned from hard-headed countrymen about them- 
selves and himself and the Cause, which he was not slow to 
catch to his profit and improvement. By near contact 
with the crowd he found the need and cultivated the practice 
of debate between himself and them — a most necessary 
equipment in his unpopular crusade. So the frequent 
repetition of such a lecture as The Lost Arts enabled him 
to learn what was best liked, until at the thousandth delivery 
it was as near perfection as such a popular discourse could 
be made. In a less degree some of his abolition speeches 
got emendations or alterations which frequent repetition 
suggested, at the same time preventing stereotyped versions. 
He had enough of ordinary human nature to profit by 
mistakes, and possibly to humour the unaccountable adora- 
tion of bosh which hearers often display to the discredit 
of their understanding and taste. But his general effort 
was to lift them to a higher grade intellectually, morally, 
and politically. If he had to descend to the level of the 
average comprehension in words and thoughts, he never 
sunk below it; and crediting the common people with un- 
common sense, lifted them up with the progress of his 
discourse, and led them on year after year with the growth 
of national sentiment for freedom. Thus he grew in his 


own methods as a leader of thought and action by personal 
discussion and effort in the great movement of the republic, 
without allying himself with politics or party, creating and 
moulding the opinion and belief which underlies all political 
action and eventual legislation, until that which was at first 
called heretical and fanatical became in the end sane and 

There were other qualities which contributed to the versa- 
tility of his eloquence that may be enumerated by recalling 
the illustrious Ten of Attica, who together made oratory 
the first of arts. It is too much to say that a modern speaker 
could appropriate them all and retain his personality; but 
some of his hearers might have thought that he learned 
from Pericles directness of address and disregard of popular 
favour, attended by restrained and majestic diction when 
occasion demanded; or at another time the simplicity and 
vividness of Lycias and his quick discernment of opportu- 
nities; or most often the intense earnestness of Isseus, passing 
to closing passages suggesting the melodious cadences of 
Isocrates when he took oratory into the service of good 
citizenship in a republic. And always in his extempo- 
raneous speech there was the spontaneity attributed to 
^schines and his seeming freedom from laborious prepara- 
tion, aided by a colloquial manner that placed the hearer 
on friendly terms, while its dignity ensured his respect. 
To all this was added a restful variety which Demosthenes 
valued so much for securing the hearers' attention, ranging 
from conversational vivacity to severe solemnity, with a 
fusing current of emotion throughout, itself controlled and 
intensified by masterful restraint, the secret of supreme 
command. For the invective, which was so marked a 


feature of his discourse at times, he had provocation frequent 
and strong; also eminent predecessors and fine examples 
from Cicero and his Philippics, Tertullian and his bold 
censure of the Carthaginians, Ambrose and his charges 
against the evils rife at Milan, and many another brave 
spirit who dared to raise his protest against the wrongs 
of his age. Or, nearer his own, Phillips could find Fox's 
famous diatribe, and Patrick Henry's speech on the stamp 
act, and John Randolph's defence of slavery. Many of 
these, however, had an undertone of bitter resentment in 
which this orator did not indulge. He expected personal 
abuse and took it as an incident of his mission, sparing 
his irony for those who through greed or in fear or for 
political advancement stood in the way of what they knew 
was just and right. For such there were no words of a com- 
mon scold, but such as turned deftly against them a tide 
of opinion and even accusing consciences within. It was 
a part of the orator's system — to enlist mightier forces 
than his own single-handed effort, and a part of his philosophy 
that " one on the right side is a majority." 

This favourite saying of his suggests the epigrammatic 
element which abounds in his discourse. After figures of 
speech and thought or apt anecdotes, nothing fastens the 
gist of a paragraph in the hearer's memory like barbed epi- 
grams, which are not necessarily poisoned arrows. Ecclesi- 
astes, the Preacher, had their staying quality in mind when 
he spoke of the "words which are as nails well fastened by 
the masters of assemblies " — or " collectors of sentences," ac- 
cording to the later version. Phillips had a condensing in- 
vention which could mass the weighty discourse of an hour 
into a single sentence, point it as with steel, and drive it 


through triple-plated armour of prejudice, greed, or wrong. A 
long list of epigrams might be compiled, of which the follow- 
ing are examples: 

There is no republican road to safety but constant dis- 

They have put wickedness into the statute book, and 
its destruction is just as certain as if they had put gun- 
powder under the Capitol. 

Power is ever shifting from the many to the few. 

The race is rich enough without the greatest intellects 
God ever let the devil buy. 

Popular agitation is the life of a republic. 

Whether in chains or in laurels. Liberty knows nothing 
but victories. 

Never look for an age when the people can be quiet — 
and safe. 

On God's side, one is a majority. 

As an agitator his hope rested on this principle. He 
believed that the people would eventually side with righteous- 
ness when they saw it clearly. Therefore his labour began 
with them wherever any would listen; in a country school- 
house, town hall, or vestry in his native state, speaking to 
a dozen sympathizers and a hundred opposers. After years 
of patient struggle with prejudice his audiences swelled to 
two or three thousand, with only enough opposition to stir 
him to his best achievement. To leaders and legislators 
he did not pay much attention. Politicians represented 
the average sentiment of the people and parties, mixing 
with the masses instead of leading them. His idea of leader- 
ship was to be so far in advance of the host that few could 
see the outpost they were expected to reach. He took this 


extreme position from the first, called to the sons of men 
to come up to it, never went back toward them to offer 
any less stringent measure or to make a single compromise 
in an age and country of compromises. Abolish slavery, 
make citizens of the Negroes as you are making them out 
of the dregs of every nation dumped on our shores. To 
colonize men of all shades in Africa was to send mixed 
American blood there; to pay their owners for them was 
to repay them for their fathers' piracy and for their own 
improvement of a stolen inheritance. This was high and 
unpopular ground to take in the 'thirties, and even in the 
'fifties, but in the next decade the North and the civilized 
world came to a moral state and a conviction about universal 
freedom that made the further existence of slavery im- 
possible. Phillips did not ask for himself more than the 
average of public opinion is now ready to accord him — 
there will always be differences of view; but none can 
deny that his work was done, not like many who received 
their full meed of praise for an eleventh hour of labour, 
but as one of the few who bore the burden and heat of 
the day, when there was only scorn and hatred for the 
same words and deeds which later won praise and honour 
for other men. Therefore, whatever opinion is handed 
down by tradition or gathered from contemporary records, 
to be stereotyped as history, with regard to occasional mis- 
takes such as all men make, those of this man may, like 
some of his sharp words, be considered incident to the 
intense earnestness of one who saw a great wrong early 
in the day of its power and laboured until nightfall for its 
removal, surrendering all other ambitions to a single pur- 
pose, which the majority now are ready to call good or high 


or noble. It is the old story of the prophets — the 
children are garnishing the sepulchres of those whom 
the fathers stoned. It will not be strange, then, as 
the account of a great episode of American history is 
written and rewritten, if this agitator take his place 
with reformers who came to their own after the dust 
of strife was laid, and their work and motives appeared 
in the perspective that time and disinterestedness bring. 
This millennial year Avill not arrive for him until the 
day of present estrangement is over, a heritage from 
the last generation; but it will eventually come, as 
the day of deliverance came from a national evil through 
a conflict of which the present reminiscence is only as the 
clouds vanishing after a storm. 

As Phillips's public record will be that of an orator and 
agitator, so his traits that will be best known are those 
which belong to an advocate of reform; aggressive, uncom- 
promising, insistent, incessant, perceptive, sagacious, un- 
daunted. Those who heard of his methods or read his 
speeches were surprised when they met the man in social 
converse. Apart from the arena with its severities of 
attack and defence, he met his fellow - men with a 
warm-heartedness and gentle friendliness which lasted 
through all the years of animosity that might have 
embittered a smaller soul. Confident, as he had reason 
to be, of the wisdom of his matured conclusions, he 
was patient with those who had well-considered views of 
their own ; and in the narrowed circle of intimate 
friends the testimony of one of them, in a letter to 
Mrs. Phillips, would have been generally endorsed in 
other instances besides this one: 


The preeminent magnanimity of your dear husband in 
the affair so interests me that I cannot withhold from you 
the expression of my admiration of it. It is so entirely in 
unison with the whole tenour of his beautiful life and 
conduct. The dignified forbearance which he, so wisely, 
sees fit to exercise in these issues will doubtless speak even 
more eloquently than the article which we all know he 
might have written, had he seen fit. . . . iVfter all, 
there is no foresight like his, whether in his silence or utter- 
ance or in the entire beautiful harmony of his life. 

It would be possible to trace the ramifications of these 
two prominent traits of courage for righteousness and good- 
will toward mankind. Of the former, instances were 
necessarily more public than those of the latter, which were 
frequently in the direction of unmentioned deeds of charity. 
His executor found a private memorandum of gifts to 
needy causes and persons amounting to $64,000; and in 
settling the joint estate discovered that Mr. and Mrs. Phil- 
lips had spent nearly all their considerable property in charities 
and reforms. It was then known, beyond what had been 
believed, that the principles which had been proclaimed 
abroad had been practised at home. Besides, there were 
fireside virtues in the observance of which conspicuous 
persons often drop to ordinary levels, and home becomes 
a place of reactions from public strain. To many, a house 
hushed for invalidism, with needful seclusion from much 
companionship, might have its depression as the months 
and years wore on, even if the lover period were prolonged 
and the sympathies of young hearts were unfading, as, ac- 
cording to unvarying testimony, they were in the two who 
lived in retirement, without loneliness or gloom, and with 
never a thought but for the health of the one and the happi- 


ness of the other. Every sacrifice did not procure the first 
one's health: the making them seemed to be that other's 
Ufe-long joy. Perhaps, too, the ostracism attending those 
who encountered poHtical and commercial prejudices 
made the hearthstone more precious; but there must have 
been a sense of solitude in the midst of a populous town 
and of aversion on its streets which would grate on an 
honest and kindly heart. Only a rare manliness could 
withstand the atmospheric pressure of disapproval, relentless 
through half a century, without growing morose. To keep 
a cheerful temper, a genial heart, and an open hand, to 
forgive misunderstanding and malice, to hold fast one's 
faith in the essential rightness of human consciences, to 
rise above untruth, misrepresentation, slander, and the un- 
spoken thought of evil requires the truest and most heroic 
manliness that is given to men, or kept with all diligence 
amid adverse conditions. Orators and reformers have 
sometimes performed brilliant and worthy tasks without 
these homelier and inconspicuous virtues, and have gone 
down in history as illustrious benefactors of the race: this 
man added unostentatious qualities to the conspicuous; 
and because he did, under untoward circumstances, it is 
well that the generations that follow him should know 
how good a man he was, as well as how complete an orator 
and how sincere a reformer. It is moderate praise to say 
that he was a shining example of Cato the Censor's definition 
of an orator — "A good man skilled in speaking." 


IN THE account of any life worth commemorating there 
is the frequent opportunity to insert trivial matters 
that have an interest of their own, but do not belong to 
the higher plane along which the narrative should move, 
like a planet in its orbit. Yet often the intervening face 
of the sky with its clouds and storms, and even the nearer 
earth with its sunshine and shadow are of more interest 
than wheeling worlds in the sidereal heavens. So in an 
exalted career there are always minor features that appeal 
to our curiosity because they reveal human elements on a 
level with the humdrum existence which the majority lead. 
They exhibit the phases and the routine of living which differ 
among men no more than their occupations. 

The life which has been sketched in its professional aspect 
was no exception to this law of the common lot. Like other 
lives it had to be maintained by the ordinary means, 
although there was no necessity for other labour by one with 
an income of from $10,000 to $15,000 a year and more 
when lecturing. It was largely life in a New England city 
and in the neighbouring countryside, or on the highways 
and byways of travel near and far. Though preeminently 
a home life, it was also among throngs of busy men, among 
the needy, the unfortunate, the poor, and fugitives from 


AT HOME 365 

bondage. Like his neighbour and relative, Dr. Holmes, 
he loved the very streets of Boston, he used to say, as Mam- 
mon loved the golden pavements of heaven. The Common 
was his boyhood's playground and the park where he 
walked daily for threescore years, and where, strolling with 
Edmund Quincy once, an Englishman remarked of them 
to Ticknor that they were the only men he had seen there 
who looked like gentlemen. In his modern Athens he was 
a peripatetic philosopher, not so abstracted that anything 
worth noting escaped him, and not so absent-minded as 
to forget on his homeward way to get the choicest delicacies 
for the invalid wife who was waiting to hear the latest 
news and to be read the newest book by one whose reading 
charmed all who were fortunate enough to hear him. 

Nor was the domestic life absolutely secluded. It was 
shared occasionally by a few friends rather than by a wide 
circle of acquaintances ; by children often when adults could 
not be welcomed. In the modest brick house inherited 
from her father by Mrs. Phillips there was a dining-room 
on the ground floor where French was the language of the 
table at the half-past seven breakfast, the two o'clock 
dinner, and the half-past six supper, where no product of 
the sugar cane was used, nor any cotton fabric produced 
by slave labour, in all the house. Of the double parlours 
above, one is said to have been used as a depository for 
the newspapers accumulated on lecture trips and for many 
additional journals of all shades which he subscribed to 
and carefully read. It was also a library containing 2,500 
volumes, stocked largely with books of the historical and 
essay type and many pamphlets. If he had a favourite 
author it was De Tocqueville, and his "Democracy in 


America" is quoted by the orator oftener than any other 
book. In this room he would sometimes shut himself for 
days when an important occasion called for special prepara- 
tion; meditating upon his subject in an easy chair or on a 
lounge, since his nature was inclined to indolence — if 
his wife's remark in a letter to a friend that "Wendell is 
as lazy and easy as ever" means anything. His own saying 
that "writing is a slavery — a man chained to an inkpot," 
and the evidence of a few surviving notes to neighbours 
show how sincere was his aversion to a pen. But there 
was either intense mental labour or immense talent behind 
the continuous discourse of a lifetime, indicating the genius 
of a great public speaker which could be independent of 
desk and pen. He held, moreover, that few men could be 
both good writers and effective speakers; nor did he count 
himself as an exception. With the Hebrew poet he might 
have said, "My tongue is the pen of a ready writer." 

He was also an omniverous reader. Newspapers, pam- 
phlets, magazines, and books furnished incidents, anecdotes, 
facts and principles which were stored in a tenacious and 
reproductive memory, to be summoned by association, 
fitness, or contrast whenever needed. Therefore he was 
always prepared to speak. When committees asked him 
if he happened to have this or that lecture with him he 
replied, "I carry all my lectures with me," meaning in his 
head. Sometimes he ran two together for the thrifty who 
wished to be sure of their money's worth, without their 
discovery of the dividing line. He took pay for the literary 
or scientific half only, if the other was anti-slavery. Yet 
his income from some of the former was large: $150,000 
from the repetition of The Lost Arts alone, it is said. 


Considering the length of his career, he was on the 
road more than any other speaker in the country; and what 
would be remarkable in these days, without a serious acci- 
dent in fifty years. Against stationary perils of cold rooms 
and damp sheets he guarded himself by the blanket shawl, 
which was every man's companion and multiform friend 
in the 'fifties and later; while to avoid the uncertainties of 
so-called tea he carried his own favourite brand of breakfast 
tea which he frequently prepared to his taste, particularly 
the three cups which with three raw eggs were his bracer 
for an evening's speaking. It would not be safe to conclude 
that this prescription will make an orator of every speaker. 

More to the purpose is his answer to a student's inquiry 
for helpful suggestions: "Practice is the best of teachers. 
Think out your subject, and read all you can about it. 
Fill your mind; and then talk simply and naturally. Forget 
that you are to make a speech, or are making one. You 
are to carry a purpose, effect an object; then having for- 
gotten yourself, you will be likelier to do your best. Talk 
up to an audience, not down to it. The commonest audience 
can relish the best thing you can say if you say it properly. 
Be simple; be earnest." This advice was exemplified by 
himself, and is good for any speaker as far as it goes, but an 
unmentioned element is necessary to such success as his. 
He was too modest to name it, or perhaps could not define it. 

Ready as he was to speak on almost any topic, he was 
not at the beck of every occasion that was to be enlivened 
by speeches, especially public dinners, where under the 
dulling influence of solids and fluids, alcoholic fumes and 
tobacco smoke, orotund commonplaces often pass for wisdom 
and facetiousness for wit. Wine he did not drink, nor, 


according to Sir Walter Raleigh's phrase, did he "drink 
tobacco." Modern table-talk, which unlike its historic 
predecessor is postponed till all have fed, did not appeal to 
him. He relished more keenly such conversation as was 
heard from diners in the days of Hazlitt and Coleridge and 
Wilson, or in his own time at the dinners of the Atlantic 
Club. Ordinarily he was a better listener than talker, 
learning something from everj^one, although the charm of 
his conversation was delightful in congenial company. 
His mood was reflective and his thoughts too constantly 
upon serious matters which concerned public welfare in 
the last century to favour the lighter converse tional habit 
which sparkles and breaks like foam over the deep currents 
of life, public and private. These he was quick to discern 
and was not silent then; as, for example, when one morning 
he was sitting by a Southern woman, a niece of Jefferson 
Davis, who was returning from a lecture trip not so well paid 
as himself, with whom he insisted upon sharing his own prof- 
its of the evening before. As she did not know what these 
were, she could not know that he gave her all he had received, 
as he did to a poor student now and then. His benefactions 
for a period of thirty years have already been mentioned. 

If he was not a great talker it was for no lack of ideas 
or readiness. For instance: a minister in Ohio returning 
from a convention in a car full of clerical brethren, felt 
called upon to stand up and ask him in the stillness of a 
stopping place: 

"Are you Mr. Phillips.?" 

"I am, sir." 

"Are you trying to free the niggers?" 

"Yes, sir; I am an abolitionist." 


"Well, why do you preach your doctrines up here? 
Why don't you go over into Kentucky?" 

"Excuse me, are you a preacher?" 

"I am, sir." 

"Are you trying to save souls from hell?" 

"Yes, sir; that is my business." 

"Well, why don't you go there?" 

The assailant hurried into the smoker amidst a roar 
of unsanctified laughter. 

It may be superfluous to ask in closing what Phillips's 
position would be on this and that question of the present 
day. Several of them he anticipated in his outlook beyond 
his own generation, generally on the line of subsequent 
march, sometimes on one which was not followed, just as 
population has not always followed the predictions of shrewd 
city prospectors in the West. In the present strife between 
labour and capital his course could be divined from his 
alliance with the working man thirty years ago, and he 
certainly would have no sympathy with the centralization 
of wealth, against which he warned the nation in his 
later years. On the ever-present but never settled tem- 
perance question he would see his prohibition policy obtaining 
favour in sections where he least expected legislative 
aid, and might redouble his efforts with individuals, as 
his own manner was from the beginning. To foreign 
immigrants he would fling the doors wide open, even 
if the assimilative powers of the country should be severely 
taxed, believing that all children born here become American, 
whatever their fathers may have been. And after, if not 
before, hospitality to wanderers from Europe, Asia, and the 
Orient he might be urging better protection for our dumb 


but steadfast friends, especially in chambers of torture 
known as places of scientific research. On disputed issues 
of tariff and currency he might still be not infallible, as 
many experts have shown themselves not to be. On the 
race question he would have a great deal to say. After all, 
it may be doubted if he would find any problem to call out 
his best effort as in his own day, whose stirring issues were 
a part of the forces which made him the power that he 
was. Moreover, he would not now find a group of speakers 
comparable to that constellation which surrounded him 
then, and not without its influence upon him and one 
another, making the age one to be taken account of in the 
history of public speech. It is not necessary, however, 
to suppose that this art has perished forever because it is 
in the hollow of a wave whose crests appear at wide intervals 
along the course of twenty-four centuries. Its sweep is 
long, but it is sure to rise again in some future period when 
deep shall call unto deep, and when one man shall sway 
a thousand because his heart is true, his vision clear, his 
gifts great, and raised to their highest power by the stress 
of the times. If such an age is reformatory, as those which 
have produced the best oratory have always been , it is beyond 
question that among examples in the past the one which 
will be earliest studied, because of its own excellence and 
its latest position, will be whatever survives of the eloquence 
of Wendell Phillips. 



Abolition of slavery, 1, 126 

aggressive and educational, 180, 

immediate, 129 

in District of Columbia, 235 
" Abolition movement. Philosophy 

of the," 146. 
Abolition speeches, 332 
x\bolitionism, growth of, 77 

in Boston, 101, 141, 142 

shades of, 186 
Abolitionists, 22 

British, 22, 131, 140 

criticism of one another, 167 
Adam, Professor, 80, 81 
Adams, Charles Francis, 122 
Adams, John, 197 

Adams, John Quincy, 40, 124, 127 
Adams, Samuel, 63, 139 
Addresses of Wendell Phillips, 327 
Address to the nation, 119 
Advanced positions, 37, 120 
Aggressiveness, 361 
Agitation, abolition, 74, 211 

in Congress, 128, 156 

prehminary to political, 191 
Alcott, Bronson, 253 
Allies, zealous, 152 
Alton riot, 51 

meeting in Faneuil Hall, 214 
Amalgamation, 28, 249 
Anderson, Mayor, 254 
Andersonville,'274, 277 
Andrew, John A., 124 
Anti-slavery cause, 19 
Anti-slavery societies, 20, 63 

American, 79, 

disbanded, 289 

An ti-slavery societ i es — continued 

Boston, 67 

British and foreign, 81 

New P^ngland, 22 
Anti-slavery sentiment, 20, 217 

growth of, 133 

in the North, 211 
Antony's speech to the populace, 61 
Appleton, Thomas, 6 
Argument, 324 

Arguments, legal, of W. P., 330, 331 
Athletics in the 'thirties, 12, 16 
Attucks, Crispus, 193 
Austin, James T. 54 


Bailey, Gamahel, 50 

Balance of power, 135, 176 

Ballots vs. bullets, 221 

Banks, N. P., 186 

Beecher, Henry Ward, 92, 141, 154 

Ljaiian, Dr., 13 
Benevolence of Phillips, 362 
Bowditch, W. I., viii 
Birney, J. G., 49, 80, 81 
Blagden, Mrs. J. G., viii, 20 

MSS., 87, 206, 233, 264 
Books and reading, Phillips's, 36 
Boston, 151 

in 1810, 3 

subserviency of, 146 
Boston Latin School, 6 

massacre anniversarv, 193 

mobs, 23, 100, 214,^216 
Bowring, Sir John, 80 
Bright, John, 249 
Brooks, Preston S., 174 

assault on Sumner, 175 

commended for, 176 




Brougham, Lord, 130 

Brown, John, 196, 201, 203, 210 

Buchanan, James, 177, 180, 183, 

Bull Run, battle of, 229 
Burke, Edmund, 130 
Burns, Anthony, 161, 163, 245 
Butler, B. F., 230, 246, 295 

Calhoun, John C, 24, 71, 113, 118, 

120, 125, 128, 135, 192 
California, 127, 137 
Canada, flight of Negroes to, 144, 

145, 146 
Capital punishment, 165, 332 
Carpenter, E. J., viii 
Cato the Censor's definition of an 

orator, 363 
Channing, E. T., 8 
Channing, W. E., 52, 55, 130, 313 
Charleston, S. C, 151, 185 
Chase, Salmon P., 169 
Cheever, Ezekiel, 6 
Choate, Rufus, 57, 92 
Church and clergy in abolition, 109, 

Civil War, the, 74, 140, 199 

losses in and cost of, 255 
Clay, Henry, 71, 192, 273 
Colloquial style, 149 
Colonization, 20, 32 
Coloured prejudice, 130 
Coloured troops, 246 
Commercialism, 214 
Composition, Phillips's methods of, 

Compromises in Constitution, 103 

failure of, 225, 229 
Conciliation of audience, 104 
Concord squires and Phillips, 94 
Confederacy, Northern, 218 

Southern, 176 
Congress and abolition, 68, 137, 

153, 155, 162, 230 
Constitution of U. S., and slavery, 

44, 46, 128, 130, 137, 141, 143, 

164, 168, 176, 183, 192, 222, 

257, 290 

Contemporary comment on Phillips's 
oratory, 42, 45, 56, 57, 58, 59, 
110, 141, 144, 163, 177, 184, 
189, 234, 272 

Cotton gin and slavery, 19 

Criticism, abolition standards of, 278 

Curtis, George William, 92, 233, 316 

Cushing, Caleb, 181 


Dana, R. H., Jr., 164 
Dartmouth College, 169, 311 
Davis, Jefferson, 210, 216, 268, 274 
Declaration of Independence, 74, 

144, 290 
Delivery, Phillips's, 347 
Democratic party, 99, 117, 245 
Demosthenes, 61 
Denunciation, 147 
Detail work, 71 
Disintegration, 179 
District of Cohimbia, slavery in, 68 
Disunion, 74, 136 

convention, 180 

petitions, 126 

sentiment, 193 
Douglas, Stephen A., 210 


Eloquence, dramatic features of, 
61, 343 

overpowering mobs, 133, 216 
Emancipation, British, 22 

gradual, 20, 196 

immediate, 21 

in West Indies, 130, 131 

total, 120, 129 
Emancipator, The, 22 
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 91, 131, 

160, 311, 313 
Epigram, 358 
Era of good feeling, 135 
Essex Street, No. 26, 86, 216, 365 
Eulogy, 204, 337-340 

of John Brown, 204 

of Phillips by Curtis, 316 
Evangelist, The, 22 
Everett, Edward, 57, 89, 91 



Exordium, 321 

Exposition, 239 

Extravagance of speech, 147, 351 

Faneuil Hall, 3, 08, 70, 98, 100, 104, 
123, 124, 138, 143, 174, 179, 

opened to defenders of slavery, 

pro-slavery meeting in, 53 
refused to abolitionists, 23 

Federalist, The, 197 

Fillmore, Millard, 154 

Financial problems, 301 

Fort Sumter, 254 

Free Soil partv, 117, 128, 176 

Free speech, 63, 65, 71 

Freedman, 131 

Freedom of the press, 49, 51, 53, 54 

Fremont, John C, 180. 230, 252 

Friendliness of Phillips, 361 

Friends, Society of, 154 

Froude, James A., 298, 

Fugitive slave act, 155 

law, 146, 147, 150, 230 
protest against, 161 
repeal of, petition for, 154 

Fugitive slaves, 100 


Garrison, Francis J., viii, 33, 75 
Garrison, Wendell P., 23, 75, 87 
Garrison, William Lloyd, 20, 23, 

35, 68, 74, 108, 113, 119, 128, 

140, 151, 152, 158, 179, 253, 

258, 309 
Giddings, Joshua R., 180 
Grant, Ulysses S., 269, 270, 275, 

276^ 278, 285, 287 
Greeley, Horace, 274, 297 
Greene, Ann Terry, 33 


Hallett, B. F., 54 

Hancock, John, 63, 139, 185 

Harper's Ferry, 196, 209 

Harvard College, 3, 64, 128, 170, 
187, 200 
Law School, 15 
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 160 
Higginson, Thomas W., viii, 81, 187 
Hillard, George S., 54, 55, 122 
Hoar, Sanniel, 114, 120 
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 8, 160 
Home, the Phillips, 363 
Hopkinson, Thomas, 17 
Hovey, Charles F., 198 
Howe, Samuel G., 124 
Hunter, David, 236 

Idealism, 37, 177 
Indian problems, 303 
Insurrection, servile, 126, 192, 196 
Intemperance, 291 
Invective, 105, 335, 336 
Irish addresses, 97, 115, 310 
question, 298, 310 

Jackson, Andrew, 49 
Jackson, Francis, 266 
Jefferson, Thomas, 66, 152 
Johnson, Andrew, 263, 264, 267, 
268, 276, 299 


Kansas, 161, 172, 173, 180, 181, 192 
Kossuth, 147, 352 
Ku-Klux Klan, 269, 281 

Labour and capital, 314 

question, 285 
Latimer, George, 245 
Latin School, Boston, 262 
Law, as a preparatory study, 16 
Lawless, Judge, 50 
Lawrence, Abbott, 194 
Lecture audiences, 96 
Ivccture, Tlie popular, 90 
Lecturer, Phillips as a, 327 
Lecturer's opportunity, 96 



Ijccturers, noted, 91 

Lecturing trip. A, 168, 367 

Lee, Robert E., 254 

Liberator, The, 20, 23, 227, 260 

Lincoln, Abraham, 104, 106, 210, 
211, 212, 221, 222, 228, 230, 
234, 237, 238, 251, 256 

Literary men in abolition cause, 140 

Literature of abolition, 153 

Livermore, Thomas, L., 255 

Longfellow, Henry W., 16, 85, 160 

Loring, Ellis G., 32 

Loring, Judge E. G., 163 

Lost arts. The, 92, 319 

Lovejoy, Elijah P., 50, 64 

Lowell, James R., 16, 73 74, 140, 156 

Lundy, Benjamin, 20, 68 

Lyceum, The, 90 

Lyman, Mayor, 296 


McDowell, Marshal, 230 
Mann, Horace, 92 
Mason, James M., 210 
Mathew, Father, 97, 132 
Mexican war, 147 
Misrepresentation, 142 
Missouri compromise, 20, 161, 165 
Mobs, 53, 214, 216, 234 
Motley, Lothrop, 5, 7, 8, 307 
Muck-rake speech, 123 


Negro, estimates of the, 29 

emancipated, 283 

in Canada, 146 

in Gulf States, 260 

suffrage, 285 
New England trade and manu- 
factures, 67 
Non-resistance, 151, 193 
Northern subserviency, 128 


O'Connell, Daniel, 97 

tribute to Phillips, 98, 99, 115, 
116, 130, 302 

Old South Church, 3, 303 
Oratorical age. An, 92 

model, 370 
Orators, classic, 358 
Oratory, personal element in, 60 

form of, 345 

persuasive, 97 

Phillips's, 133 

press comment on, 42, 58, 59, 
110, 141, 144, 163, 177, 184, 
189, 234, 272 

substance of, 318 
Orthodoxy, 215 
Otis, James, 63 
Overtures to the South, 221 

Palfrey, John G., 122 

Parker, Theodore, 161, 180, 214 
224, 254, 313 

Parkman, Francis, 16 

Peaceable methods, 181, 214 

Pen, distasteful, 136 

Peroration, 164, 354, 355 

Personal hberty bill, 103, 219 

Petition, right' of, 41, 43, 49 
to Congress, 68, 77, ' 
to Parliament, 79 

Philanthropist, The, 50 

Phillips, Ann Greene, 85, 86, 87, 315 

Phillips, John, 4 

PhiUips, Jonathan, 53 

Phillips, Madam,, 85 

Phillips genealogy, 5 

Phillips, Wendell, born Nov. 29, 
1811: Childhood and school 
years, 3 ; antecedents, 4 ; home 
training, 5; playfellows, 5; 
oratorical promise, 5, 7; in 
Boston Latin School, 7; 
declamation days, 7; enters 
Harvard, 8; instructors, 9; 
studies, 9; reading, 10; 
orators heard, 11; college 
athletics, 12; social position, 
12; moral and religious 
character, 13; summary, 14; 
a law student, 15; mis- 



Phillips, Wendell — continued 

cellaneous reading, 16 ; ad- 
mitted to the Imr, 17; busi- 
ness in office and courts, 18; 
prospects, 19; early aboli- 
tionism, 31; witness of Gar- 
rison mob, 31; how far an 
abolitionist before this time, 
32; influence of Ann Terry 
Greene, 33; engagement and 
marriage, 31; meets Garri- 
son, 35; contrast of condi- 
tions, 36; his idealism, 37; 
announces his position in a 
resolution and a speech, 38, 
39; second speech, 40; trib- 
ute to John Quincy Adams, 
41; defence of the right of 
petition, 42; endorsement of 
Adams, 43; fundamental 
principles first advocated, 44; 
inconspicuous at first, 45; 
Fourth of July address at 
Salem, 46; desertion of 
friends, 46; other sacrifices, 
46; the call, 47; renuncia- 
tion, 48; in Faneuil Hall, 54; 
speech on the murder of 
Lovejoy, 55; its importance, 
57; recognition, 57; com- 
mendation and detraction by 
contemporaries, 58, 59; the 
dramatic element, 60, 61, 62; 
labours afield, 63; Marl- 
boro' Chapel speech, 64; 
argument before the Mass. 
Legislature, 65; on annexa- 
tion of Texas, 66; detail 
work, 67; president of Bos- 
ton Anti-slavery Society, 67; 
on slavery in District of 
Columbia, 69; speech in 
Faneuil Hall, 70; work of in- 
struction and organizing, 71; 
general agent of the JNIas- 
sachusetts Anti- slavery 
Society, 72; uncongenial 
allies, 73; agitation his 
method, 74; work inter- 
rupted by European travel. 

Phillips, Wendell — confiniied 

76; commendation, 77; in 
Europe, 78; delegate to 
London convention, 78; the 
disturbing woman question, 
79; a stormy debate, 80; 
Philhps's protesting position, 
81; addresses the British 
India Society, 82; conti- 
nental travel and letters, 83 ; 
returns home, 84; house- 
keeping, 86; family letters, 
87; dislike of writing, 89; 
mental composition, 89; on 
the lecture platform, 90 
its educational value, 91 
Phillips's early lectures, 92 
on the "Lost Arts," 92 
characterized, 93; its popu- 
larity, 94 ; an abolition lecture, 
95; character of audiences, 
96; on Irish Appeal to 
Americans, 97; abstract of 
speech, 98; fundamental 
issues before abolition, 99; 
a fugitive slave in Boston, 
100; speech in Faneuil Hall 
on arrest of Latimer, 101; 
attacks constitution, 102; 
provocation, 103; an orator's 
struggle, 104; invective, 105; 
opposition to political alli- 
ances, 108; will not vote, 108; 
clerical antagonism, 109; his 
orthodoxy, llO; speaks on 
adverse influence of church, 
110; note by Neal on his 
oratory. Ill; recognition and 
leadership, 112; address to 
President Tyler, 112; pam- 
phlets and lectures, 113; 
resents treatment of Mr. 
Hoar by South Carohna, 114; 
on second Irish address, 115; 
admiration of O'Connell, 116; 
protest against politics, 117; 
holds to his original methods, 
118; on annexation of Texas, 
119; total abolition, 120; 
peaceable withdrawal, 121; 



Phillips, Wendell — coniinued 

answers Webster's attack, 
122; muck-rake speech, 123; 
speech on war with Mex- 
ico; 124; tribute to women 
helpers, 125; on servile 
insurrection, 126; speech 
on disunion petitions, 127; 
free soil movement, 128; 
advanced position, 129; 
president of N. E. A. S. 
Society, 130; on West Indian 
emancipation, 131; letter to 
James Haughton, 132; out- 
line of work in 15 years, 132, 
133; oratory, 133; reviews 
Webster's Seventh of March 
speech, 136, 137, 138; further 
criticism, 139; speech in 
Plymouth Church, 140, 141; 
in Boston on charge of 
abusive words, 142; on 
Fugitive Slave law, 144; 
addresses on Sims's arrest, 
145, 146; criticism of Kos- 
suth, 147; reply to Webster's 
slur, 148; stemming the tide, 
149; on Southern trade, 150; 
non-resistance, 151; counsel 
to new converts, 152; defence 
of denunciation, 153; dis- 
arrangement, 154; a hopeful 
sign, 155; little sj-mpathy 
from men of letters, 156; 
Lowell an exception, 157; 
and Whittier, 158; attitude 
of other literary men, 158; 
indicted for obstructing slave 
catching, 161; faith in the 
future, 162; tribute to his 
eloquence, 163; legal argu- 
ment on removal of Judge 
Loring, 164; on capital 
punishment, 165; distinctive 
policy of abolition movement, 
166; as a rhetorician, 167; 
abohtion individuaUsm, 168; 
an example of a lecturing 
trip, 168; no alliance with 
political parties, 169; agita- 

Phillips, Wendell — continued 

tion opens Boston schools 
to coloured children, 170; 
speech before Pilgrim Society, 
170; his independence, 171; 
the main issue, 172; progres- 
sive methods, 172; destructive 
first, 173; depression and 
doubt, 173; on Southern 
chivalry, 174; hopeful divis- 
ion of parties, 175; limita- 
tions of political reforms, 176; 
advocates more education 
for women, 177; his 
advanced positions, 178; 
on aggressiveness of abolition 
movement, 179; disunion 
Convention speech, 180; 
value of the Union, 181; 
rebuff, 182; Dred Scott 
decision, 183; comments of 
the press on the lecturer, 184; 
speaks on various topics, 184; 
Dred Scott decision reviewed, 
185; abolitionists pioneers, 
186; party leaders criticized, 
187; defence of his orthodoxy; 
187, breadth of mind, 188; 
Yale Phi Beta Kappa oration, 
189; recall to first principles, 
190; no dependence on 
parties, 191; ground for 
encouragement, 192; a 
lecturing feat, 193; enslaved 
races, 194; on states rights 
doctrine, 195; partial com- 
mendation of Republican 
party, 196; argument before 
Legislature, 197; tribute to 
Charles F. Hovey, 198 
reproves public drinking, 199 
on woman's position, 200 
John Brown and Harper's 
Ferry, 201; lecture on the 
Lesson of the Hour, 202; 
replies to criticism, 203; 
eulogy of Brown, 204, 205; 
letter from a slaveholder, 206 ; 
goes to North Elba, 207; 
war imminent, 208; advo- 



Phillips, Wendell — continued 

cates ballots rather than 
bullets, 209; criticism of 
Republicanism, 210; of 
political abolition, 211; on 
Lincoln's nomination, 212; 
brighter outlook 213; com- 
mercial antagonism, 214; 
eulogy of Theodore Parker, 
215; on "Mobs and Educa- 
tion," 215; a Boston mob, 
216; on the "Lesson of the 
Hour," 217; "let the South 
go," 218; "time will bring 
her back," 219; his optimism, 
220; peaceful solution, 221; 
prophecy difficult in 1861, 
222; on culmination of 
controversy, 223; his atti- 
tude, 224; accepts trial by 
battle, 225; in the failure of 
other proposals, 226; the 
majority with him, 226; the 
press not yet, 227; criticism 
of statesmanship, 228; on 
battle of Bull Run, 229; 
abolition a war issue, 229; 
insisted upon by abolitionists, 
230; on the war, 231; 
slavery, its cause, 232; dis- 
union abandoned, 233; lec- 
tures in Washington and the 
West, 234; enlarged views, 
235; advocates enlistment of 
blacks, 236; on Lincoln's 
delay, 237; and partial 
emancipation, 238; urges 
carrying Northern civilization 
into the South, 239; looks 
toward reconstruction, 240; 
reflects on Government policy, 
241; on Northern sjTnpathy 
with the South, 242; "Tous- 
saint rOuverture," 243; 
on liquor trade, 244; on the 
state of the country, 245; 
cheers the despondent, 246; 
on danger from Supreme 
Court, 247; and Southern 
minority in Congress, 

Phillips, Wendell — continued 

248; English attitude, 249; 
recent gains, 250; on the 
war, 251; criticized by Gar- 
rison, 252; on reconstruc- 
tion, 253; addresses legisla- 
tive committee on sale of 
liquor, 254; not in Charles- 
ton April 14th, 255; tribute 
to Lincoln, 256; on dissolu- 
tion of anti-slavery societies, 
257; elected president of 
American A. S. Society, 258; 
demands equality for both 
races in reconstruction, 259; 
contributing editor of the Stan- 
dard 261 ; addresses schools of 
Boston, 262; strictures upon 
Andrew Johnson, 264; 
endorsed by Sumner, 264; 
refuses to consider nomina- 
tion to Congress, 265; aids 
the Standard, 266; criticizes 
Administration, 267; urges 
impeachment, 268; doubt of 
Grant, 269; a busy year, 270; 
editorials quoted, 271; press 
comment on his speeches, 
272; opinion of Webster and 
Clay, 273; on release of 
Davis, 274; criticism of 
Grant, 275; the Cabinet, 
276; and Johnson, 277; 
standard of criticism, 278; 
on defeat, 279; Grant's 
nomination, 280; Indian 
policy, 281; religion and 
social science, 281; Republi- 
can party, 282; the Negro 
six years under emancipation, 
283; on Negro suflVage, 284; 
labour question, 285; prog- 
ress of the abolition cause, 
286; on the condition of the 
South, 287; grateful to 
Grant, 288; on disbanding 
American Anti-slavery So- 
ciety, 289; new causes and 
old, 290; intemperance, 291; 
Christianity, 292; social sci- 



Phillips, Wendell — continued 

ence, 293; use and trade 
in liquors, 294; candidate 
of Labour and Temper- 
ance parties, 294; supports 
General Butler, 295; on 
corporate wealth, 295 ; Mayor 
Lyman controversy, 296; 
favours Republican party, 
297; on woman suffrage, 299; 
incorporated wealth, 300; on 
financial questions, 301; 
attacks Froude on Irish 
question, 301, tribute to 
O'Connell, 302; the Lidian 
problem, 303; rescue of 
Old South Church, 303; 
limitations of advancing 
years, 304; knightly quest 
of reforms, 305; last years 
and labours, 307; declines 
nomination for governor and 
to Congress, 307; eulogy of 
Garrison, 308; steadfast to 
his religious belief, 309; 
speaks on liquor license and 
Irish affairs, 310; Phi Beta 
Kappa oration at Harvard, 
311; removal from Essex 
Street, 314; lectures on 
labour and capital, 314; 
eulogy of Harriet Martineau, 
315; last discourse, 315; 
illness, 315; death and 
funeral, 316; eulogy upon 
Phillips, 316; memorial 
tablet, 317; his oratory as a 
lecturer, 319; lecture titles, 
320; exordium, 321; not 
always conciliatory, 323; 
argument, 324; before pop- 
ular assembly, 326 ; addresses 
327; exposition, 328; legal 
arguments, 329; abolition 
speeches, 332, 333; invective, 
335, 336; tributes, 337, 338; 
as a eulogist, 339, 340; aca- 
demic orator, 341; dramatic 
features of his eloquence, 
343; form of oratory. 

Phillips, Wendell — continued 

345; appearance and first 
impressions, 346; voice and 
delivery, 347; gestures, 348; 
moods of audiences, 349; 
style and modes of address, 
351; versatihty, 353; per- 
orations, 354, 355; Greek 
and Roman qualities, 357; 
epigram, 358; traits, 361; 
as a citizen and friend, 362; 
as a reformer, 363; at home, 
365; books and reading, 
366, 367; on lecture tours, 
367; readiness of retort, 367; 
attitude on questions that 
have become important, 369; 
as an orator to be studied, 

Pitt, William, 130 

Platform, the lecture, 89 

Political alliances, 108 

Pope Gregory XVI. on slavery, 115 

Press, Boston, 227 

Press, Northern, 229 
Southern, 227 

Protest against politics, 169 

Protests against slavery, early, 28 


Quincy, Edmund, 8 
Quincy, Josiah, 143, 313 


Race prejudice, 29 

Radicals, 19. 73, 177, 360 

Randolph, John, 209 

Reading, illustrative, 17 

Recognition, contemporary, 57 

Rejoinder, 57, 89, 115 

Religious belief, Phillips's, 315 

Remainders, 364 

Republican party, 117, 175, 191, 

208, 209, 210, 218, 282 
Retort, 368 
Revels, 288, 296 
Revere House, 149, 200 
Rynders mob, 140 



St. Domingo, 196 
Sanborn, Frank B. viii, 11 
Schools opened to coloured chil 

dren, 170 
Scotch address, 125 
Secession, threats of, 130, 135,212,22£ 

to end slavery, 217 
"SeUing of Joseph," 22 
Sewall, Samuel, 6 

Samuel E., 22 
Shadrach, a fugitive slave, 145 
Sims, a fugitive slave, 145, 245 
Slaveholders a minority in the 

South, 24 
Slave labour, and support, and 

profits of, 25, 26 
Slave power in the nation, 218 
Slave trade, foreign and domestic, 26 
Slavery, barbarities of, 27 

cause of abolition movement, 19 

cause of ci\al war, 230 

early opposition to, 20 

evils of recoiling, 28 

features of, 25 

introduction of, 19 

philanthropists' silence on, 132 

Southern and other views of, 30 

states opposed to, 143 
Social science, 281 
Southern trade, 142, 150 
Speakers, advice to, 367 
Standard, The, 86, 265 
State sovereignty, 195 
Story, Judge, 15, 100 
"Street Life in Europe," 94 
Sumner, Charles, 8, 17, 124, 145, 
154, 174, 181, 188, 190, 211, 
264, 297, 307 
Supreme Court, 185, 197 

Taney, Justice, 183 

Temperance, 184 

Texas, annexation of, 66, 67, 118, 

119, 135 
Third Party, 117 

Thompson, George, 80, 249 
Ticknor, George, 9, 16 
Toombs, Robert, 216 
Toussaint I'Ouverture, 196, 243 
Traits, personal, of PhiUips, 361 
Tremont Temple, 145, 213 


"Uncle Tom's Cabin," 25, 153 

Union, The, 107 

and slavery, 119, 154 
value of, to slavery, 181 

Unitarians and Phillips, 188 

Vane, Sir Harry, 303 
Versatihty, 353 
Vocation and avocation, 47 
Voice, Philhps's, 111, 347 


Walker, Amasa, 180 
War for independence, 193 
Ci\al, 74, 140, 199, 255 
Washington, George, 70, 90, 152 
Wayland, Francis, 189 
Wealth, incorporated, 285, 293 
Webster, Daniel, 32, 57, 66, 70, 74, 

104, 122, 135, 139, 142, 143, 

148, 152, 167, 192, 197, 200, 

Weld, Theodore, 13 
Wells, E. M. P., 53 
Whig party 148, 149 
Whittier, John G., 45, 138, 140, 156, 

WiUiams College, 311 
Wilmot proviso, 137 
Wilson, Henry, 166, 167, 180, 186,211 
Wise, Henry A., 202 
Woman question, the, 79, 198, 200 

Yale College, Phillips's Phi Beta 
Kappa oration at, 187, 188,